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By Shrikant Shankar
Apr 27, 2014
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) play Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 on Monday, April 28. This is the last match both teams play in the Middle East-leg of IPL 7. Dubai will play host to this Match 18 of IPL 2014. Punjab are coming on the back of four victories in four matches. They are the current favourites to win the IPL 7 title. Bangalore have lost their last two matches. They won their first two in the competition.
Everyone saw a different side to Punjab on April 26 as they beat Kolkata Knight Riders in a low-scoring match. The first three matches they played were all high-scoring ones. Punjab chased down mammoth targets in their first two matches against Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. They then defended a massive total against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their third with ease. But in their fourth match, they could only manage 132 for nine in 20 overs. A disciplined bowling performance bowled out Kolkata for 109.
Captain George Bailey and the team owners, especially Preity Zinta, would have been delighted to see their team win four in four. This showed that Punjab are not all slam-bang and can grind out results — a component essential in championship-winning teams. Glenn Maxwell proved he is human as he could not continue his exceptional form against Kolkata. He only managed to score 15. Another in-form batsman, David Miller, also only scored 14. But on April 26, Punjab’s stars were their bowlers. Lesser-known Sandeep Sharma, Akshar Patel and Rishi Dhawan were impressive as Punjab defended a low total. The better-known Mitchell Johnson and Lakshmipathy Balaji also did not disappoint.
Cheteshwar Pujara gives Punjab a stable opening option. His partner Virender Sehwag top-scored for them with 37. But there were glimpses of his flashy brilliance in the previous match. The middle-order takes care of itself with Maxwell, Miller and Bailey. Wriddhiman Saha was solid behind the stumps with the gloves. There need not be any changes unless injuries come into play. They sit atop of the IPL 7 Points Table at the moment. Confidence and form are with the Kings XI Punjab.
Bangalore are a little curious case so far in the tournament. Despite Chris Gayle being out injured, the Vijay Mallya-owned franchise have their best line-up in recent years. But it has not been all plain sailing. Bangalore started well with two comfortable victories against Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians. But they managed to lose from a winning position against Kolkata in their third and then were thrashed by Rajasthan in their fourth match. There was nothing good to talk about in that match as Bangalore were bowled out for 70. It is almost impossible to defend that kind of totals in T20 cricket.
To change their fortunes, a lot will depend on the fitness of Gayle. Even if he cannot take the field, Bangalore need to ring-in some changes. That might also mean shuffling their batting order along with personnel. They currently sit in fifth position and while it is not dire, a victory always helps. Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers are certainties in the top-order. Their bowling is also good with Ravi Rampaul, Mitchell Starc, surprise package Yuzvendra Chahal. They have a good all-rounder in Albie Morkel. It is only a matter of clicking on the day.
India’s Under-19 captain Vijay Zol has not been given a chance so far and he is one of the prospects in the country. Varun Aaron did not play against Rajasthan and there is a speculation that was to keep him ready to play against the star-studded batsmen in the Punjab line-up. That meant Bangalore were confident of winning against Rajasthan, but obviously it did not turn out as expected. Bangalore will do better to go match by match and not go too far ahead. The conditions will be suited for batting and spin bowling as the pitch will be flat. As this is both teams’ last match in the Middle East, a victory becomes extra special.
Kings XI Punjab: George Bailey (c), David Miller, Manan Vohra, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Virender Sehwag, Rishi Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shaun Marsh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Beuran Hendricks, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Thisara Perera, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Murali Kartik, Sandeep Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Akshar Patel, Parvinder Awana, Shardul Thakur, Anureet Singh, Shivam Sharma, Karanveer Singh.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (c), Chris Gayle, Parthiv Patel (wk), Yuvraj Singh, AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mitchell Starc, Ravi Rampaul, Vijay Zol, Sachin Rana, Yogesh Takawale, Nic Maddinson, Sandeep Warrier, Tanmay Mishra, Harshal Patel, Shadab Jakati, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Ashok Dinda, Varun Aaron, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Time: 20:00 IST | 14:30 GMT
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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