Thursday, May 15, 2008

Knight Riders to take on resurgent Mumbai Indians

An engrossing and no-holds-barred battle for vital points to book semifinal spots are on the cards as resurgent home team Mumbai Indians take on a revitalised Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.

Among the many small battles that make up, the overall picture would be the raw pace-versus-ace encounter between Kolkata's Shoaib Akhtar-Ishant Sharma combine and the Sachin Tendulkar-Sanath Jayasuriya duo of the hosts.

Jayasuriya's power-packed display on Wednesday, when he carted the Chennai Super Kings' bowling around with gay abandon in his amazing 114 not out including 11 sixes and nine fours, would surely have increased the crowds hunger to witness similar pyrotechnics with the bat from the home team.

Mumbai Indians, with Tendulkar at the helm since Wednesday after he missed the first half of their round robin campaign due to a groin injury, were in the sixth spot with eight points following their fourth win on the trot after a dismal beginning.

Two points ahead of the home team are the Knight Riders led by Sourav Ganguly and a victory for either would be a huge setback for the losing outfit in their race to advance to the knock-out stage of the 44-day competition that ends with the summit clash at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on June 1.

The key to the match, perhaps, will lie in how well the double act of Jayasuriya and Tendulkar shape up against the controversial and temperamental Akhtar, who demolished the Delhi Daredevils top-order in his devastating opening spell two nights ago.

The Mumbai Indians opening duo, two cricketers who have played the maximum number of One-Day Internationals in their career, will have to be at their best to keep out the menacing Akhtar and his comrade-in-arm Sharma for the home team to either post a challenging total or chase successfully.

From among the rest, Ajit Agarkar, who knows the conditions here well, Umar Gul of Pakistan and Ashok Dinda, can provide adequate support to the pace spearheads of Knight Riders, owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.

Toss also would be crucial as the side that wins it would, in all probability, put the rival team in on what's expected to be another track offering copious bounce as was the case last night when there was a lot of pace and lift for the speedsters.

Mumbai Indians' pacers, led by the redoubtable Shaun Pollock who has bowled splendidly right through the competition, are also capable of exploiting the pitch
conditions well as they displayed against Chennai Super Kings.

Both the teams go into the high-profile clash with a lot of momentum, with Knight Riders winning their last three ties and the hosts having won their last four matches.

Mumbai Indians are unlikely to make any change in their triumphant line-up, while Kolkata might be tempted to bring in Agarkar for another Mumbai Ranji player, Iqbal Abdulla, as horses for the courses strategy.

In batting, Knight Riders are depending a lot on Ganguly and Australian David Hussey to play big knocks while the rest of the batsmen have not fired big so far, another key element in the equation.

The home team will have the services of West Indian all rounder Dwayne Bravo for the last time this season before he returns to the Caribbean to get play the Test series against Australia. He has filled in very nicely for the injured Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka and would like to exit the arena with a bang.