PUNE:Having suffered their third consecutive defeat at the hands of a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore in their previous match here, Rising Pune Supergiants will face another stiff competition — this time in the form of high-flying Kolkata Knight Riders — at the MCA International Stadium here on Sunday.
The MS Dhoni-led side have now lost three of their four matches this season, and will look to get their campaign back on track with a win against KKR, who are at the other end of the spectrum, with only one loss. And they will have to do it without England superstar Kevin Pietersen.
The South Africa-born dasher limped off the field after facing just one ball against RCB, and is expected to be on the sidelines for at least a couple of weeks. However, Dhoni believes Pietersen’s injury can be a ‘blessing in disguise’ for the ailing bowlers of the IPL newcomers. “We’re playing with six bowlers, yet our death bowling isn’t great,” Dhoni admitted after the RCB defeat.
“Maybe we can bring in Albie Morkel or Mitch Marsh now,” the national limited-overs skipper said, hinting one of the foreign all-rounders will come in to replace Pietersen, and hopefully give balance to side.
On the contrary, Gautam Gambhir’s side looks like one of the best in the ninth edition of the IPL. When it comes to batting, Gambhir has been leading from the front, along with opening partner Robin Uthappa, who has backed his skipper well.
By wrapping up Delhi Daredevils for a paltry 98 runs in their opening match, and restricting others in the 140s, they have also proved their bowling attack potent. South African pacer Morne Morkel, West Indies spinner Sunil Narine and Indian speedster Umesh Yadav have all been among the wickets.
“The way we’re batting and bowling is good. The combinations are working, and that is one of the main reasons why we’re doing good,” said leggie Piyush Chawla on Saturday, adding it will be a close match considering the amount of experience in the two squads. “Pune have experienced players like Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) and R Ashwin. But we also have a few players who’ve played over 100 IPL matches. So, it’ll depend on the combinations we put out, and it’ll be a very good game,” Chawla said.
Smith’s IPL scores so far
4 vs Bangalore, Pune
38 vs Punjab, Mohali
5 vs Gujarat, Rajkot
DNB vs Mumbai, Mumbai
pros vs cons
A clash between contrasting teams will see Gautam Gambhir’s table-toppers take on MS Dhoni’s strugglers. KKR’s openers, Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, have been superb in giving the team the best starts, while their bowling line-up is the envy of many. Pune, meanwhile, will need to raise their game, so that they don’t fall behind too much in the race for a playoffs berth.
Pitch & Conditions
In the last IPL match here, Bangalore prevailed in a high-scoring match. However, seamers can expect something from the Pune wicket. Dew won’t be a factor.