Mumbai favourites against Kolkata

Mumbai favourites against Kolkata

Upbeat after their comprehensive 60-run victory over table-toppers Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians will be eager to further brighten their play-off prospects with another win over holders Kolkata Knight Riders in their IPL game here on Tuesday.

Mumbai’s fifth victory in as many games at the Wankhede Stadium, which has proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for visiting teams this season, boosted their points tally to 14 ahead of their 12th round match against the Knight Riders who are languishing in the bottom half of the table with 8 points from 11 matches.

It’s going to be a daunting task for Kolkata and the clinical dissection of Rajasthan Royals in their previous home game is just the shot in the arm the Gautam Gambhir-led side needed ahead of this huge challenge.

The visitors’ hopes of making it to the knock-out phase are hanging by a thread and the head to head record against Mumbai – 2 wins against 9 losses – is also not inspiring. But the defending champions can take heart from the fact that when the two teams met here last year, it was Kolkata who emerged victorious.

Post-match there was a ruckus between KKR’s joint owner Shah Rukh Khan and the Mumbai Cricket Association officials that led to the association imposing a five-year ban on the Bollywood actor from entering the ground.

MCA officials have been insisting the ban stands and he cannot come and egg on his team at the stadium.

The Knight Riders’ top-order batting has waxed and waned in IPL-6. None signifies this aspect better than captain Gambhir who started off with three half centuries in their first four games and has since struggled to get going.

Though Gambhir is still the top scorer for his side with 320 runs, his poor run with the bat after the great beginning has put pressure on the latter order batsmen. Even the ever-dependable Jacques Kallis (219 runs) has not been consistent.

Big-hitting Eoin Morgan has been the main prop in the middle with 278 runs at just over 34 per innings. The defending champions would be pleased with Yusuf Pathan finally producing an innings of significance — he had made 49 not out in their eight-wicket win over Royals after a string of low scores.

The Knight Riders’ top-order, however, would have a big challenge to take on the likes of Mitchell Johnson, who has been the pick of Mumbai’s new ball bowlers this season, and Lasith Malinga in the Power Play period and death overs on a track that offers spongy bounce and sideways movement.Mumbai’s batting has not exploded in all its glory so far, with senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar failing to convert his starts into big scores.

He has been partnered by West Indian Dwayne Smith at the top ever since Ricky Ponting decided to opt out from the playing XI, leaving the captaincy to Rohit Sharma who has been the fulcrum of the batting along with Dinesh Kaarthick. With Harbhajan Singh choking up the runs and also taking wickets with Pragyan Ojha in the middle overs, Mumbai’s bowling at their home ground has been pretty impressive.

* DWAYNE SMITH: The Bajan is as threatening a force in the IPL as Chris Gyale and Kieron Pollard. Smith replaced out of touch Ricky Ponting in the pole position, adding more fire power to the Mumbai Indians batting. His form upfront will be crucial for Mumbai when they face Kolkata.

* YUSUF PATHAN: The hard-hitting Baroda man has been a massive let down so far this season except for his 49 not out against Royals. He hasn’t made any impression with the ball either. If Kolkata are keen to end Mumbai’s good run at home, then they need some explosive stuff from Pathan.

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