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IPL 10, Match 49: Punjab vs Kolkata

Wisden India logo Wisden India 09-05-2017 Wisden India staff

No more slip-ups. That’s the message the management group of Glenn Maxwell and Virender Sehwag will be desperate to impress upon Kings XI Punjab as they embark on the final leg of league matches with qualification to the playoffs of IPL 2017 very much a possibility.

© IANS

Even without slip-ups, a depleted Punjab outfit will have its work cut out against Kolkata Knight Riders, the two-time former champions who are riding the crest of a wave. But should Maxwell’s team not heed its captain’s exhortations and reprise its woeful fielding display of Sunday against Gujarat Lions in Tuesday’s (May 9) game against Kolkata, then it is as good as game over.

Hashim Amla’s second century of the season had given Punjab an outstanding chance to close the gap on fourth-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad, but Dwayne Smith was put down twice and the ground fielding went to pieces in the closing stages as Gujarat, already out of the reckoning, pulled a rabbit out of the hat. On Tuesday, Punjab will have to reconcile to life after Amla and David Miller, both of whom have left for home ahead of the three-match One-Day International series in England.

With Marcus Stoinis too on the injured list, suddenly the Punjab batting looks on somewhat thin ice. But if the home side is looking for silver linings, it will welcome a return to the top of the order of Manan Vohra, who started the tournament in rousing fashion but has tapered off somewhat in recent times.

Martin Guptill, Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell will provide the experience in batting that Punjab so desperately require, particularly with Wriddhiman Saha not exactly firing on all cylinders either. Against perhaps the most versatile bowling line-up in the competition, Punjab can ill afford to be at anything but their best.The depth in their bowling lends scope for optimism, but Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma and Axar Patel can only do so much if there is no commensurate catching or fielding support. As it is, Kolkata possess an envious top order even in the absence of Robin Uthappa, recuperating from a hamstring strain, with Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn looming as the biggest, most potent threats.

Flourishing in his unexpected avatar as an opener, Narine equalled the fastest fifty in IPL history on Sunday against Royal Challengers Bangalore, while Lynn celebrated his return from a shoulder injury with a bruising half-century of his own. Gautam Gambhir, the second highest scorer this season behind David Warner, looms large at the top of the order while there is further musculature in the shape of Manish Pandey, Colin de Grandhomme and Yusuf Pathan, a fearsome line-up with or without Uthappa.

Kolkata’s own varied attack, headlined by the uber-impressive Umesh Yadav, would have found this line-up a handful. Punjab will have to be at the very top of their game if they are to ensure that they don’t join Bangalore and Gujarat on the sidelines well before the end of their league campaign.

Head-to-head record:

Played: 20. Punjab: 6, Kolkata: 14.

Head-to-head at the PCA Stadium, Mohali

Played: 5. Punjab: 2; Kolkata: 3.

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