Durban: With their backs against the wall, a desperate Kolkata Knight Riders will take on Perth Scorchers in their do-or-die penultimate group league encounter in the Champions League T20 on Wednesday.
The IPL champions, led by Gautam Gambhir, have comprehensively lost their first two games against Delhi Daredevils and qualifiers Auckland Aces and are now in a must-win situation against the Australian side who will also like to notch up their first victory in the tournament. However, the job will be easier said than done for KKR who have looked completely out of sorts on the South African pitches that offers assistance to pace bowlers.
Having played their first two matches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the KKR caravan now moves to Kingsmead which has one of the liveliest 22-yards in the history of the game. Barring Manoj Tiwary, who scored 33 against Daredevils, almost all the KKR batsmen have struggled against pace and bounce, and Kingsmead strip will only compound the worries of Gambhir and Co.
Gambhir's poor form has also affected the team's chances and it will be interesting to watch as to how he copes against the pace and movement generated by the likes of Nathan Rimmington, Joe Mennie and Mitchell Marsh. In the bowling department, Brett Lee is expected to make a comeback in the playing XI while Jacques Kallis, Sunil Narine and Brendon McCullum are certain to retain their places.
Seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji's form is also a big concern for KKR as he has hardly been effective in the two matches so far. Balaji's lack of pace and tendency to bowl a lot of slower deliveries make him a tad predictable.
For the Scorchers, Herschelle Gibbs will like to come good after a poor first outing. Gibbs, on his day, can tear apart any bowling line-up in the world and when he is around, any target looks achievable. Mitchell Marsh is another talented player who has the ability to make a lot of difference.
The biggest advantage for the majority of the players is the fact that they have played a lot of cricket at the WACA ground in Perth which has conditions similar to that of Kingsmead and therefore. So KKR have a battle in their hands to stay afloat in the competition.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Gautam Gambhir (c), 2 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Rajat Bhatia 8 Pradeep Sangwan, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Lakshmipathy Balaji, 11 Sunil Narine
Perth Scorchers: 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Marcus North, 4 Simon Katich, 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Luke Ronchi (wk), 7 Nathan Rimmington, 8 Joe Mennie, 9 Brad Hogg, 10 Michael Beer, 11 Ben Edmondson