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Winless Punjab confront unbeaten Pune


Jaspreet Sahni,Cricketnext.com
Apr 11, 2012 at 10:05pm IST

One team will look to register its first win and the other will pull out all stocks to remain unbeaten. One captain will try to lift the gloom with runs off his bat and the other will hope overconfidence doesn't find a space in his team's dug-out. The return match between Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors India at the PCA Stadium has a lot at stake.

Both Sourav Ganguly and Adam Gilchrist are in their second Indian Premier League season with Pune and Punjab respectively, and both are captain-cum-mentor of their respective franchise. But the contrast lies in the starts the IPL veterans have had to their fifth season of the league. While Ganguly's team has won everything coming its way so far, Gilchrist's Punjab have struggled to find their feet.

Pune were up against it in their first match, playing Mumbai Indians in Mumbai. But a lion-hearted performance – led by Man-of-the-Match Steve Smith (39) with the bat, Ashok Dinda with the ball (4 for 18) and Ganguly with his captaincy – helped the team defend a paltry 129 and upset the tournament favourites by 28 runs. Pune improved with the bat in their second outing – this time at home against Punjab – by putting up 166 on the board, with Man-of-the-Match Marlon Samuels (46) and Robin Uthappa (40) being the chief contributors. Ganguly then had all the bowlers chipping in with wickets to win the match by 22 runs.

Winless Punjab confront unbeaten Pune

While Kings XI Punjab have lost both their matches so far in IPL 5, Pune Warriors India have won two out of two.

So while Pune's leading batsmen – barring Ganguly (3 and 20) and Callum Ferguson (12 and 3) – have had a decent hit in the middle, they haven't been tested in a run-chase yet and that's where they have to be careful should Punjab bat well first. Also the starts have so far gone missing for Pune. Ganguly partnered Manish Pandey in the first match and Jesse Ryder in the next, but all three have so far failed with the bat. Clearly, Pune are missing Graeme Smith, who was ruled out due to injury before the tournament started. That leaves a window open for Bangladesh strokemaker Tamim Iqbal to make his debut in the IPL. Other than that, it's hard to see Pune tinkering much with a winning combination. And Gilchrist will be the last man to let the enemy's weaknesses remain unnoticed.

But the Punjab skipper has enough corrections to make in his team first before getting down to dissect his opponents. Besides the loss to Pune in the away match, Gilchrist's men have been outplayed by Rajasthan Royals – the other unbeaten team of the tournament thus far – by 31 runs. In both those losses, the Punjab top order failed to fire, with the highest scorer being tailender Bipul Sharma (35) in the match against Pune.

Gilchrist (27 and 6), Paul Valthaty (13 and 1) and Shaun Marsh (7) have failed to take off, with the only bright spot in Punjab's batting being Mandeep Singh (34 and 24). Punjab's new buy David Hussey (13 and 18), who is expected to be the leader of their middle order, also has yet to make any major contribution.

Harmeet Singh has been Punjab's most successful bowler so far with four wickets. However, legspinner Piyush Chawla hasn't impressed and could be replaced by offspinner Ramesh Powar in the XI.

Having won two out of two matches, Pune are only behind Rajasthan (on net run-rate) in the points table. On the other hand, Punjab, who are yet to open their account, are at the eighth spot.

Probable XI:

Kings XI Punjab: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt/wk), 2 Paul Valthaty, 3 Manpreet Singh, 4 David Hussey, 5 Abhishek Nayar, 6 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 7 Ramesh Powar, 8 Bipul Sharma, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 James Faulkner, 11 Harmeet Singh

Pune Warriors India: 1 Sourav Ganguly (capt), 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Robin Uthappa (wk), 6 Callum Ferguson, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Rahul Sharma, 9 Murali Kartik, 10 Ashok Dinda, 11 Ashish Nehra

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