Kolkata: One more interesting game of IPL 5 is on the cards as the hosts Kolkata Knight Riders come one-on-one against Royal challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens in second of the double-header on Saturday. The two teams are equal on points, and since the previous match for both was washed away due to rain, they will like to score over each other moving into the latter half of the league phase.
The two teams look pretty similar on paper with nine points in their kitty, with Kolkata doing a little better when we look at the net run rate. But when it comes to performance, of late, Bangalore have been more consistent than Kolkata, mainly due to their top guns finding form. Chris Gayle's big hits are back in business and AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan have looked pretty settled after an indifferent start, especially in Bangalore's last win over Rajasthan Royals.
In contrast, the big names in the KKR camp haven't lived up to their reputation. Be it Yusuf Pathan, Brett Lee, Jacques Kallis or Brendon McCullum, none of them has performed up to the high standards they have set for themselves over the years. The saving grace has been skipper Gautam Gambhir, who has led from the front and is the team's highest run-getter.
Bangalore have also arrested their losing spree nicely. They lost three matches in a row after winning their opening encounter but have been on a roll lately having completed a hat-trick of wins before their rained out last match against Chennai Super Kings. Bangalore also seemed to have found an unlikely bowling hero in spinner KP Appanna, who led the attack in the victory over Rajasthan while picking up 4 for 19. He is backed up by Zaheer Khan and legendary spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori.
Talking about their first-leg encounter, Kolkata beat Bangalore with a comprehensive margin of 42 runs. But that match was a good two-and-a-half weeks back, and RCB have come up leaps and bound since then, so have KKR who began disastrously losing two matches in a row.
With the tournament getting older, pitches are expected to be on the slower side and we will see spinners coming more into play. In that case, it won't be a surprise if we see Muttiah Muralitharan bowling in tandem with Daniel Vettori if the latter recovers in time from the niggle he suffered before the washout against Chennai. But that will need one of the foreign players to sit out for RCB, which could be a tough decision to make for the think-tank. On a similar note, Kolkata will look to play both Sunil Narine and allrounder Shakib Al Hasan to make use of the spin-friendly conditions at the Eden. But that could mean leaving out Jacques Kallis or Brett Lee.
Considering that the last game at the Eden was hit by rain and thunderstorm, weather may again disrupt proceedings if overcast conditions prevail. However, the Kolkata crowd will hope that it stays away and they have a good game of cricket to watch.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1. Brendon McCullum, 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Manoj Tiwary, 7 Debabrata Das, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 L Balaji, 11 Brett Lee / Shakib Al Hasan
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mayank Aggarwal, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Saurabh Tiwary, 7 Daniel Vettori (capt), 8 Vinay Kumar, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 KP Appanna, 11 Harshal Patel