In the league stages of IPL 7, Kings XI Punjab chased down scores of over 200 more than once, and that too rather comfortably. However, if there was one team their batting faltered against, it was Kolkata Knight Riders. In both the matches of the league stage, their in-form batsmen failed to tackle Kolkata’s bowling. This was one of the main reasons why Kolkata held a slight edge as they took on league table-toppers Punjab in the first qualifier. As things panned out at the Eden Gardens, it was again evident that Punjab haven’t sorted out Kolkata’s bowling.
A team chasing in a big game is always under pressure. In such a scenario, Punjab would have hoped their bowlers conceded fewer than 163 batting first. Still, for a side that has chased down massive targets earlier in the event, and have been among the most destructive batting sides in IPL 7, failing to chase the target, which was pretty much below par for them, would have been exceedingly disappointing. They are not out of the event yet, and will get another shot in eliminator two, but the pressure would be greater since that would be a knock out clash.
Without doubt, it was their poor batting which cost Punjab the match, since it is their stronger suit. The early loss of Virender Sehwag, under the conditions, was a big blow for Punjab. A quick cameo of 20 or 30 from the former India opener could have eased a lot of pressure on the later batsmen, but it wasn’t the case and Punjab struggled to recover from the early start even though they had quite a few in form batsmen to follow. Considering, the amount of experience Sehwag possesses, he should be disappointed following another failure.
Briefly, when Manan Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha were at the crease, Punjab looked in with a decent chance. However, while the duo looked fluent out in the middle, both gave their wickets away after getting starts. Had even one of them carried on, that batsman could have guided the team into the final. Instead, Punjab lost them with the target a long way away, and they suffered in a big way at the end of the day. Punjab have heavily depended on their big hitters for most part of IPL, but they also couldn’t withstand the pressure.
It was some exceptional Kolkata bowling that made both Glenn Maxwell and David Miller look mediocre. The duo have played some sensational knocks in this edition of the IPL, but have clearly struggled against the likes of Narine and co. It would be intriguing to see how they perform against Kolkata’s bowlers if they manage to make it to the final. Before that, they have to brace themselves up for the eliminator. Punjab would need to get many things in order. George Bailey would go well to lead from the front, and bat at a higher position than 7.
--By A Cricket Analyst