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IPL 2014 Qualifier 1: Kings XI Punjab vs Kolkata Knight Riders Preview

Two of the last three matches of the league phase of IPL 2014, witnessed the most dramatic turnarounds possible, which have tempted many people to start complaining about the sportiveness of the tournament.

According to some bemused and furious fans, IPL is following a written script – much like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). They don’t seem to be interested to buy any argument put forward by experts pleading for stopping those claims. They simply put forward a simple question in ‘What are the odds for the team to chase those hardly improbable totals so easily?’ 

Also, another claim is that it is for the revenue the playoff matches can be generated by the home side playing in its city.

How can someone script these moments right from the beginning of the tournament. Let us not go deep into that and concentrate on the task at hand today.

A small tactical preview of the Qualifier 1 (if rains permits):

Team Strength

Kings XI Punjab

The mighty ‘Kings’ of the Kings XI Punjab team are the most balanced side in the competition and have a solid bench strength to choose from according to the nature of the pitch. With Shaun Marsh, Beuran Hendricks, Murali Kartik, Lakshmipathy Balaji on the bench, they have a formidable pool to choose from if they feel that Eden Gardens pitch might be better suited for their style of play. 

Expect Karanveer Singh to play a handy role again. If Sandeep Sharma plays, Parvinder Awana could be dropped.

Kolkata Knight Riders:

First and foremost, Kolkata Knight Riders never looked like a team, before Robin Uthappa started to pave his way to grab a hold of the Orange Cap which he has now won. A series of 40+ scores at the top from him means that even if another batsman from the top 4 makes another notable contribution , the team can easily put good numbers on the board. That is what has happened well for them so far. 

Since bowling first is the strategy adopted by both teams, here we have a look at how tonight’s match might unfold.

If Kolkata Knight Riders bat first - The Kings XI bowling, that has possibly the best new ball combination of the tournament in Sandeep Sharma, (who should surely play after enjoying his rest), along with the aggressive Mitchell Johnson, might just be the X-factor that can stop Robin from continuing his streak which might expose the brittle middle order.

One can argue that the resurgence of Yusuf Pathan with handy knocks from Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav might be enough if even one of the openers fire. With Gautam Gambhir not enjoying the best of starts against swing and bounce, the Knight Riders may be 2 or even 3 down soon, given Manish Pandey’s tentative nature at crucial times. 

The burden of reviving the innings might consume Shakib Al Hasan and Ryan ten Deoschate. The later has not spent a lot of time in the middle this season and will surely feel the pressure. In fact, he has batted for just 20 balls in 5 innings in 2014. Even Yusuf Pathan can’t guarantee anything about himself. Suryakumar Yadav might give something to defend if and then Knight Riders were forced to bat first which they were not comfortable in doing at the moment.

That might add up as an advantage for the super skilled Kings XI batting line-up that has all the bases covered at the moment and is pretty good at chasing even big scores. 

On the contrary, if Uthappa survives the new ball, one can’t guarantee the same at the other end even though the left-handed Gambhir is a big match player. Thus, the chances of the opening combo producing the kind of starts Kolkata Knight Riders fancy is rare against a proper bowling plan. With Rishi Dhawan and Akshar Patel looking solid to stop the run flow in the middle overs, Karanveer Singh is the X-factor that gives the Kings a slight edge going into KKR’s innings.

Bringing back Jacques Kallis might not be a bad move in place of Tendo to add more stability to the batting at no.3. That can even win the match for the Knight Riders if one of the openers or both survive the powerplay.

If Kings XI Punjab bat first – Gambhir is likely to bowl first if he wins the toss. You might not need any special plans to Sehwag these days,he tends to gift his wicket if the bowlers maintain a good line. Manan Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha will keep Vinay Kumar at bay. If Knight Riders chose to go in with Piyush Chawla in place of Umesh/Vinay, then Shakib Al Hasan will have a go at the front against the openers which might be a two-faced knife for Knights as both the openers like to attack spinners. 

Even though Shakib Al Hasan proudly possess the second best economy rate of 6.30 in the tournament, next to Sunil Narine’s 5.91, he may be taken to the cleaners by the perfect stroke play of Manan Vohra. Promoting Maxwell might not be a good strategy as Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla might be used against him. Again, you can’t predict the result of that battle. With the new ball being successfully negated minus the usual fall of Sehwag, they might be striking at 10 runs an over by the end of powerplay if Shakib turns expensive.

That might be the perfect launchpad for Glenn Maxwell who has lost his prime form over the last few matches in India. One of Narine/Chawla might produce that false stroke from him. Even if the Aussie perishes, Miller and Bailey will carry the innings forward with calculated hits which the two seems to be mastered at doing. Narine always tends to be less expensive, even in matches KKR lose, so unless he bags 3 or 4 wickets, it’s not a problem for the Mohali franchise to play him out. With Akshar Patel and Rishi Dhawan lower down the order, they have a good enough tail to finish off the innings. 

So, even if the Knights wins the toss, they might be forced to chase a total of 160 or even 180+ (if Maxwell clicks) which might not be easy against this Kings XI bowling attack if the openers fall cheaply. One man show might not happen again.

Watch out Knights, the Kings are coming.

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