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    Bruised Rajasthan face KKR challenge

    Rajasthan are coming into this game after being beaten by Mumbai, while Kolkata won their last match against Bangalore.

    Bruised by their loss in an away game against Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, Rajasthan Royals will face their second tough test when they play Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Friday.

    Barring Amit Singh and Brad Hogg, the other Rajasthan bowlers – Johan Botha, Ankeet Chavan and Kevon Cooper – were exposed by the Mumbai batsman as they leaked too many runs and allowed Mumbai to post a massive 197. And although they attempted to chased down the stiff target valiantly, thanks to a blistering 42-ball 76 by Owais Shah, dropping a batsman – that too the previous game’s Man of the Match Brad Hodge - for a bowler in Hogg proved costly for them at the end.

    The visitors can make amends by bringing back Hodge in place of John Botha, who has had a poor IPL 5. The South African offspinner was clobbered for 22 runs in his only over and made just two runs when the team required him to stay at the crease. Hodge’s 44 off 29 balls had been instrumental in Rajasthan beating Kolkata at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium a few days earlier, and should be drafted back in.

    Rajasthan also have the option of playing the fiery Shaun Tait. But his most potent weapon, his menacing pace, can also lead to his downfall, as the bowler has a history of going for plenty once he errs in his line and length. Despite conceding 43 in his four overs, Kevon Cooper may retain his place, courtesy his previous performance against KKR when he chipped in with 3 for 28. It’s difficult to see any other changes to the Rajasthan team, which lost its first game in three outings.

    Despite getting their first victory this season against Royal Challengers Bangalore in an away game, Kolkata have a plenty to think about. Their top three batsmen – Jacques Kallis, Gautam Gambhir and Manvinder Bisla – were among the runs in the last game, but the rest of their batting surrendered meekly. The form of Yusuf Pathan will be the biggest worry for the home side. The big-hitting allrounder has just made 16 runs in his three outings so far, 15 of which came in out innings.

    After Bisla’s 29-ball 46 off 29 in the RCB game, it will be difficult for Brendon McCullum to find a place as a wicketkeeper. Allrounders Ryan ten Doeschate and Shakib Al Hasan did fine jobs with the ball, but the Kolkata think-tank would like to use their capabilities with the bat more. Both of them got the chance to bat at the fag end of Kolkata’s innings. The trio of Brett Lee, Laxmipathy Balaji and Kallis has been in good bowling form, sharing nine of the 14 wickets KKR have taken so far. An exciting contest is in prospect as Rajasthan will look to return to winning ways, while Kolkata will want to continue their winning momentum.

    Probable XIs

    Rajasthan: 1 Rahul Dravid (capt), 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Brad Hodge, 4 Ashok Menaria, 5 Owais Shah, 6 Shreevats Goswami (wk), 7 Kevon Cooper, 8 Ankeet Chavan, 9 Brad Hogg, 10 Amit Singh, 11 Siddharth Trivedi

    Kolkata: 1 Jacques Kallis, 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Ryan ten Doeschate, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Laxmi Shukla, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Laxmipathy Balaji