Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Indian Premier League V – Week Four (Part I)

So there was a big weekend of IPL action and all of the big teams were involved, points and wins at this stage are vital and as there was only 2 points separating the top seven going into the packed schedule teams had plenty of chances to move up the table.

We start off with Chennai Superkings at home to 2nd placed Rajasthan Royals and two of India’s premier players squared off as Rahul Dravid tried to get one over on his national team captain, MS Dhoni. On paper the Superkings have the better squad, they have international players all down their order and a wealth of experience, but they have been inconsistent and their away form has been shaky so far and it’s that reason that the Royals sit on 4 wins and 8 points before the game started and three places better off than Chennai before the game started.

But this game wasn’t at away from Chennai and by and large Chennai have been in impressive form at home. And because of that they would have been delighted to see IPL top scorer Ajinkya Rahane was out for only 15 runs, far short of his impressive form this season and their bowlers bowling tight overs that contained the Royals line-up that put nearly 200 runs of Bangalore. In all honesty that big score was almost entirely down to two big match-winning innings of 102 from Rahane and a decent knock of more than 70 from Owais Shah, and it was again that Shah did well here, hitting another 52 runs and consolidating his place in the top three of the aggregate run scoring list. But as has occasionally happened with the Royals line-up this season they’ve dragged out their 20 overs at a bit of a slow scoring rate and despite handy knocks from Dravid (26) and Menaria (34) to back up Shah’s knock they did it at such a sedate pace by modern T20 standards that they only compiled a score of 146, unless they were looking at a very slow, hard scoring pitch it would be a below par total and it looks it with some of the big scores that have been posted in Chennai this season.

But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle for Chennai to chase down this modest 147, they got yet another good innings from Francois Du Plessis, his 2nd straight 50+ knock at top of the order, who was eventually out for 72 from 53 balls, but none of the rest of the line-up except Suresh Raina (26) managed to score more than 16, and the chase kind of dawdled to the moderate target, I say dawdle because they timed their dawdle just right, scoring the winning runs off the very last ball as skipper Dhoni managed to scramble a ball away for a quickly ran double to take the win and move level on points with Rajasthan and Delhi, who had the chance to put two points on top of the chasing pack when they took on Pune Warriors in the evening game.

This was Pune’ 3rd of 3 really tough away fixtures, they’d lost the last two, despite being in positions to win, and this was down to a mixture of slight bad fortune and being one or two quality bowlers light, bowlers who gave up big overs for lots of runs at crucial stages of games essentially made their batting task harder than they could cope with and the logic said that a strong Delhi team, with an in-form Kevin Pietersen should have had enough to inflict more damage on the game and plucky Warriors.

But the Warriors had other ideas, part of that was getting to bat first. In their previous two games they’ve bowled first and inside the last five or six overs have allowed teams to dominate their bowling attack and post scores that have put them out of Pune’s realistic reach.

In this game they got to set a total and after a solid start in which they got a battling 41 from skipper Saurav Ganguly, when he got out the score was 119 for 2 in the 14th over and a score of 160 or 170 didn’t look unrealistic, but that just bought little, Aussie all-rounder Steve Smith to the crease and along with a big innings of 86 from 51 balls for the in-form Kiwi opener Jesse Ryder, the two moved the score on considerably, hitting the last six overs for 73 to put them on 192 and to leave Smith on 34 from only 13 balls faced.

But with Pietersen, Sehwag and a very strong middle order Delhi have a more than enough firepower to chase down big scores. Indeed Sehwag did play well, he managed an innings 57 from 32 balls and Pietersen chipped in with 32 from 23, before being clean bowled by part time OAP Saurav Ganguly when he was looking very set, after that the scoring rate dropped and when Sehwag was out to a decent catch in the deep the innings kind of faded to a slump and they didn’t really come close to challenging the 192, instead ending their innings on 172, to allow the top of the table to become very congested, because the two teams who lead on 8 points at the start of play lost to two teams who were able to match them on that total with their respective wins.

Could Mumbai beat Kings XI Punjab to join the gaggle on 8 points? Well no they couldn’t.

They got a good start with New Zealander James Franklin being moved up the order to open with the return from injury of Sachin Tendulkar. Tendulkar (23) was run out chasing a quick double by an excellent pick up and throw from David Miller, the first of two run-outs that happened while Franklin was at the crease, as Dinesh Karthik (35) was also out in the same unlucky fashion, these two were the only players who managed to make double-figures except Franklin who finished with 79 to top score but the two run outs curtailed the run rate and Mumbai could only finish on 163 in front of their partisan home crowd.

The Kings XI, still minus injured skipper Adam Gilchrist had a target to chase and they went about it with some good knocks from Nitin Saini (30), Mandeep Singh (24) and stand in skipper David Hussey (21) but it was Shaun Marsh’s big knock of 68 from 40 balls that kept them in the game and bought them the win that they’ve been threatening for a little while, they have been unlucky in recent games to end up with a defeat and this win, away at Mumbai, moves the two sides level on points rather than the Indians joining the teams on 8 points and David Hussey has injected a bit of energy into the side that wasn’t really there in the first few games of the season. They were energetic in the field, bowled smartly and batted well and they’ll hope that that all leads to more consistent form because as unlikely as it sounds the Kings XI are only two points off the top of the table in a bunched up league, with the top 8 sides all separated by only 2 points and only Deccan Chargers adrift at the bottom with 0.

Who took on the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday in a game that was delayed because of a spot of rain but that still went ahead and with enough time to play the full 20 overs. Deccan batted first and for a little while they looked like they might finally be able to be competitive. Captain, Kumar Sangakkara, again got out cheaply but the young pair of Shikhar Dhawan (50) & Parthiv Patel (23) set about moving the score along and for a little while in the early overs they were moving it at close to 8 runs per over and looking set to help their team post a score of 160+. But the Kolkata attack, led by Brett Lee, managed to reel that back in and by the time both batsmen were out the score was a modest 100-4 in the 15th over which isn’t really lightening fast. The lower order added little impetus to a stagnant run rate and the innings fizzled out to end on a disappointing 126, which isn’t good enough, especially after getting a decent start.

Kolkata’s chase wasn’t exactly urgent either though, the returning Brendan McCullum and Manvinder Bisla were both out for 10, Jacques Kallis was out for an ambling 23 off 24 balls and Yusuf Pathan came in, faced four balls, hit one for six and then got cleaned bowled by the next delivery as he played all around a straight delivery that he tried to hoick for six but in all honesty his bat was closer to hitting me than the ball.

Skipper, Gautam Gambhir & Manoj Tiwary both knocked in 30 runs but they weren’t much more eager than the rest had been, both of their scores coming off 28 deliveries, it was enough though because the run rate never really got above 6 an over and they managed to cruise home with an over to spare but didn’t look that good in doing it, they’ll face far better sides than Deccan over the coming weeks and they’ll need to improve if they’re to stay in and around the play-offs because some teams are just starting to find some form.

And then we went to Jaipur to see if the Royals could maintain their good early season form as they entertained the Bangalore Royal Challengers and with Chris Gayle not 100% and batting down the order things seemed to be going their way, especially after they won the toss, elected to put Bangalore into bat and good early pressure bowling had the Royal Challengers at 67 for 3 in the 12th over, having just dismissed Chris Gayle for only 4 and with the out-of-form Virat Kohli (16) and the dangerous Mayank Agarwal (15) already back in the dug-out. The scoring rate was a very manageable 6 runs per over and things were looking very rosy.

But roses fade, and all that taking the wicket of Chris Gayle did was bring the very on-form AB de Villiers to the crease, he joined the industrious little Sri Lankan Tillikaratne Dilshan who was slowly building an innings and with an immediate boost, de Villiers got off the mark with two huge sixes and that sort of set the pattern for the rest of the next 8 overs.

De Villiers knock of 53, from only 23 balls (at a rate of strike-over 250), included 3 fours and 5 sixes and along with support from opener Dilshan, who made an unbeaten 76 from 58 balls the two put together a 4th wicket stand of 122 in just over 8 overs to take the game away from the flagging Royals, it was a spurt that took the Bangalore score to a daunting 189, a score that looked very out of reach for over half the innings and which also looked very out of reach for the Royals, but they do have two of the three leading scorers in the IPL this season in Rahane and Shah and so with those two ready to come in the Royals would need some big innings but they always have a chance.

Unfortunately that spurt of explosive scoring from de Villiers and Dilshan pushed the game too far out of reach, Rahane (13) and Shah (10) the two most likely match-winners for the Royals were out early and cheaply and only the ever reliable skipper, Rahul Dravid, managed to put on a total that was in any threatening to the Royal Challengers. When Dravid was out for 58 from 42 balls the innings kind of wilted away as the lower and middle order couldn’t move the scoring rate up and lost regular wickets.

The Royals finished their innings limping to only 143, with only Stuart Binny (20) adding any runs of note. This win helped boost Bangalore’s run-rate, and in a very tight IPL table run-rate could definitely play a part in deciding who finishes where. There must have been a point where Rajasthan thought they had a big chance to win the game, when they had Gayle out for only 67 they were in control but de Villiers took the game to the Royals bowlers in one of the most impressive performances of the season and in doing so he made the Royals look a bit lumpen and out-classed and gave his side the easy victory which sets them up for a good push in the 2nd half of the IPL season, because despite their unconvincing and inconsistent start to the season they are now right there on 8-points along with 5 other sides, including Rajasthan Royals, and the two sides in game 31, and one of the ones in game 32, having won three games in a row, which is the best current winning streak in IPL and in de Villiers they have the IPL’s most in-form player plus they have the chance to bring in more quality from their deep squad, which some teams, notably the Rajasthan Royals and the team we’re featuring next, Pune Warriors, don’t have the luxury of doing. Things are getting very interesting for the rest of the season.

Both Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils were looking for the win as they squared up for the second time in a week, a win would see one of these be the first team to 10 points and 5 wins and they would be the first to break through from the gaggle of six teams hovering around them on 8 points. Pune won the first encounter, a bit surprisingly because it was in Delhi, Delhi were the form team in the IPL and Kevin Pietersen was the form player in the IPL having just scored the season’s 2nd century in his previous outing. Pune would be confident doing the double when they finally got back home after a tough three match trip around the IPL and Delhi would be looking to exact revenge and get back to winning ways.

From the outside it looks like there were some good things to admire about Pune Warriors in this game, they only lost two wickets when batting first, they shrugged off the loss of in-form Jesse Ryder for a duck off only the second ball of the game and the loss of influential captain Saurav Ganguly for only 1 in the second over to and they got decent, solid, highly-commendable scores of 80 from Manish Pandey and 60 from Robin Uthappa. Except that’s all they got. Like I said, they only lost two wickets and if a pair bats for more than 18 overs together they should really be able to post more than 146. In the game on Monday AB de Villiers and Tillikaratne Dilshan put on 122 in just 8 overs and I know that different wickets make for different games of cricket but in T20 cricket when you spend an hour and a half at the crease you’d like to think you were nearer 200 than 150 by the end of it all.

The proof came when Delhi Daredevils had their go because it’s not always obvious what a par score on any given wicket is until both sides have had a bat on it. So when it came to see what sort of score the Pune Warrior’s score was the 146 that Pune managed turned out to be very low indeed, because by the times both sides had had a crack the Daredevils had managed to reach their winning score with 16 overs used up, which just goes to show that 146 was at least 40 runs shy of a winning total.

The mainstay of the straightforward run chase was skipper Virender Sehwag who knocked up 87 from only 48 balls, he got a useful but of assistance from Kevin Pietersen who made 27 but really all Sehwag needed to do was go at a boundary per over, which he just about managed, hitting 10 fours and 3 sixes in his match winning knock. The Delhi remain at the top of the IPL table and are the first side to reach 10 points, splitting from the big group of six teams on 8 points, and we all waited to see if Kolkata Knight Riders could join them at the top by beating Deccan Chargers as they had done a couple days before.

Erm no they couldn’t, Kolkata had a massive amount of rain land on it, the outfield looked more like it was about to host the Olympic yachting tournament and a bit of the Eden Gardens stand collapsed, no one was injured.

All of that means that Deccan have their first point of the season and Kolkata moved to 2nd in the table with 9 points.

Results From Games 26 Thru 32

Game 26

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Chennai Superkings Vs Rajasthan Royals
Chennai won by 7 wickets
Man of the match: Francois Du Plessis

Game 27

Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Delhi Daredevils Vs Pune Warriors
Pune Warriors won by 20 runs
Man of the match: Saurav Ganguly

Game 28

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Mumbai Indians Vs Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab won by 6 wickets
Man of the match: Shaun Marsh

Game 29

Barabati Stadium, Cuttack
Deccan Chargers Vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders won by 5 wickets
Man of the match: Brett Lee

Game 30

Sawai Mansinghe Stadium, Jaipur
Rajasthan Royals Vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Royal Challengers Bangalore won by 46 runs
Man of the match: AB de Villiers

Game 31

Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune
Pune Warriors Vs Delhi Daredevils
Delhi Daredevils won by 8 wickets
Man of the match: Virender Sehwag

Game 32

Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Kolkata Knight Riders Vs Deccan Chargers
Match abandoned due to bad weather – both sides get one point

IPL-V Table

Gms Pld
Pts – run rate
Delhi Daredevils
10 - +0.857
Kolkata Knight Riders
9 - +0.432
Rajasthan Royals
8 - +0.190
Pune Warriors
8 - +0.046
Chennai Superkings
8 - +0.033
Royal Challengers Bangalore
8 - -0.192
Mumbai Indians
6 - -0.117
Kings XI Punjab
6 - -0.467
Deccan Chargers
1 - -1.032

Kolkata Knight Riders & Deccan Chargers include one no result due to adverse weather

IPL-V Top run scorers

Ajinkya Rahane – Rajasthan Royals – 332
Francois Du Plessis – Chennai Superkings – 302
Owais Shah – Rajasthan Royals – 278
Chris Gayle – Royal Challengers Bangalore – 250
Robin Uthappa – Pune Warriors – 250

IPL-V Top wicket takers

Morne Morkel – Delhi Daredevils – 16 wickets
Keiron Pollard – Mumbai Indians – 11 wickets
Sunil Narine – Kolkata Knight Riders – 10 wickets
Munaf Patel – Mumbai Indians – 10 wickets
Kevon Cooper – Rajasthan Royals – 10 wickets

Preview Of Games 33 thru 40

Game 33

Kings XI Punjab Vs Mumbai Indians
Date: Wednesday 25th April
Start time: 11:30am (GMT) – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Mohali
Captains: Adam Gilchrist – Harbhajan Singh

Prediction: These two crossed swords just the other day, on that occasion the Mumbai Indians had all the ingredients they needed to boost themselves towards the gaggle of sides on 8 points, they were at home before a very fervent and excitable crowd and they had Sachin Tendulkar back from his finger injury for the first time since the opening game of the season. Kings XI have on occasions looked like a side that are a touch under strength in competitive world of the IPL and were missing skipper Adam Gilchrist through injury and so with all the factors thrown in to the match you would assume that Mumbai cruised to an easy victory, but no. Kings XI won and to be honest they looked by far the more professional side and always looked in control of the game. Now they get to have another go at the Mumbai Indians in a game that actually looks a bit crucial because with their line-up they will be looking to finish in the play-offs and if they lose this game they’ll be struggling to do that with the amount of teams now amassed on 8 points, several of them play each other in the coming week and if they lose this they could find making the play-offs quite a struggle, it’s a shame then that I think the Kings XI will win, and move above the Indians in the league.

Game 34

Royal Challengers Bangalore Vs Chennai Superkings
Date: Wednesday 25th April
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Bengaluru
Captains: Daniel Vettori – MS Dhoni

Prediction: This could go either way, they both met in the first week and managed to score a combined aggregate of over 400 runs and with the strengths of both teams batting line-ups and with the fact that they both seem to have gained a little bit more of a consistent run of form and a win in this game would see either be in a strong position moving into the second half of the season. As I write this there are a couple of games between teams on 8-points who still have to play each other before this one kicks off and in order to keep up with whichever sides do that both of these two will know how important the victory will be, and even though their away record has been poor I find it difficult to look past Chennai when predicting a result purely because of MS Dhoni and his ability to guide teams he skippers to crucial wins, mostly through remaining completely unflappable. So there you go, Chennai win.
Game 35

Pune Warriors Vs Deccan Chargers
Date: Thursday 26th April
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Pune
Captains: Saurav Ganguly – Kumar Sangakkara

Prediction: Deccan Chargers are having an awful time of things in this IPL, their batting line-up looks weak, fragile and a bit lacklustre, their fielding is pretty abysmal and apart from Dale Steyn their bowling unit just seems totally out of its depth. On the other hand Pune are holding in there with some far more illustrious teams, if they’ve beaten Delhi Daredevils on Monday they could be top of the IPL table assuming other results have gone there way and they’ve already beaten them once before. To say their impressive form is all down to Saurav Ganguly is not strictly true but if ever a team played in the image of their skipper it’s the Warriors. They’re feisty, energetic, enthusiastic and battling away with half the resources that some teams can call on and whether they’ve beaten Delhi or not in between me writing this and this game starting they’ll win here against a poor and drastically out-of-form Chargers side.

Game 36

Delhi Daredevils Vs Mumbai Indians
Date: Friday 27th April
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Delhi
Captains: Virender Sehwag – Harbhajan Singh

Prediction: Maybe if Lasith Malinga is back then Mumbai have a chance in this game but Delhi look like the most complete and well-balanced side in the IPL this year and although they did lose to Pune last week I think they’ll be competitive in any game they play and Mumbai have looked decidedly beatable and considering they have three bowlers in the top four wicket takers they still seem to struggle to dominate sides enough to pick up easy wins. I think Delhi win this at home with their small boundaries and their Sehwag-Pietersen fuelled six-hitting monster of a batting line up.

Game 37

Chennai Superkings Vs Kings XI Punjab
Date: Saturday 28th April
Start time: 11:30am – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Chennai
Captains: MS Dhoni – Adam Gilchrist

Prediction: For all the nice things I said in the Game 33 preview between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians about the Kings XI I think this game is a very different prospect for Adam Gilchrist’s side. Chennai have looked pretty solid at home and I’m liking the way the that big, beer drinking, barbecue eating Aussie Doug Bollinger steams in and pounds away at the weak minded IPL batsmen, he may not have the finesse or the control of Brett Lee or the wicket count of Morne Morkel but he’s consistently bashed into petrified saps at the other end, and in the first match between Chennai and Bangalore it was his spell of 4 wickets in one over that essentially reined in the prospectively huge Bangalore total to a number that his side were just able to chase down on the last ball and I think Dhoni, Bollinger and co will have too much for Kings XI

Game 38

Kolkata Knight Riders Vs Bangalore Royal Challengers
Date: Saturday 28th April
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Kolkata
Captains: Gautam Gambhir – Daniel Vettori

Prediction: Both of these two teams made the play-offs last year and with the emergence of Delhi Daredevils as a definite threat to make the play-offs this time around and with Pune Warriors and Rajasthan Royals also showing improved and more consistent form one of these two may not make it back to the IPL-V play-offs. If my prediction is correct that Bangalore will have lost their previous game to Chennai then their need for a win will be more pressing than Kolkata’s purely because it’s entirely possible that they could come into this game with back to back wins over Deccan Chargers, be top of IPL on 10 points and having a recent record of having won 4 of their last 5 games since they lost their opening two fixtures. A couple of things have struck me when I’ve watched Kolkata play though, the first is that they have an undeniably quality line-up with a bunch of international rated talent and the second is that they’ve rather laboured to their current record of 4 wins (possibly 5 by the time this game starts) and it’s slightly noticeable that two of those wins will have come against the bottom side Deccan Chargers and two games against Kings XI Punjab, although they lost one of those, and I may be going out on a slight limb when I say that although Kings XI are squaring up well to the IPL they are unlikely to ever be good enough to make the play-offs. The good news for Kolkata is that they’ve already beaten Bangalore in Bangalore; this should make them confident of winning again at the massive their Eden Gardens home ground, but the bad news is that that was all before Chris Gayle hit form and two successive half centuries show that he’s moving into form, as is AB de Villiers and this spurt of improved performance has meant that the pressure is off the rest of their line-up a little bit and their results have improved. The other bad news is that Kolkata aren’t really batting very well. In their wins over Punjab and Deccan Chargers they laboured to match slow run rates in chasing down relatively small targets and although they did win those games the game they lost to Punjab was entirely down to a lacklustre performance with the bat and so they do have issues in that department and if Bangalore can put a big total on the board I can’t see Kolkata being good enough to chase a score over 160, so I’m going with a Bangalore win.

Game 39

Delhi Daredevils Vs Rajasthan Royals
Date: Sunday 29th April
Start time: 11:30am (GMT) – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Delhi
Captains: Virender Sehwag – Rahul Dravid

Prediction: I’ve been impressed with Rajasthan this season, at times they’ve looked a little bit slow in building totals but they’ve impressed me with their ability to fight out a win in games that they could easily have lost. Their success has been built on a highly professional approach from skipper Rahul Dravid and if Pune Warriors are a reflection of Saurav Ganguly and his captaincy then the same goes for the Royals and Dravid, he’s always struck me as being a totally first rate batsmen and professional cricketer who in another era, when he wasn’t playing in the same side as Sachin Tendulkar and the more livewire exploits of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag he’d be thought of as the best batsmen in world cricket, and this Royals team have his stamp of professionalism, dedication and common sense all over it, do I think they’ll win in Delhi against Sehwag, Pietersen, Morkel and co? No I don’t, but I don’t think they should be taken lightly and although they won’t start the game favourites I don’t think you’d get long odds on them pulling off a victory. Delhi should win, but they should have won against Pune at home and they couldn’t do that.

Game 40

Mumbai Indians Vs Deccan Chargers
Date Sunday 29th April
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Mumbai
Captains: Harbhajan Singh – Kumar Sangakkara

Prediction: There doesn’t seem like a game that comes by at the moment that isn’t crucial, having said that Mumbai would have just had four days off since their last fixture and if they lost that game against Kings XI Punjab then they could be slightly adrift at the 2nd bottom in the IPL standings (if results go against them) and even more crucially at least two wins from the top of the table. The Chargers season has been dreadful and they’ve smacked of being the one uncompetitive side in a league where teams are generally even in standards and in most cases have been equally able to win or lose any fixture against any of the other eight sides in the league (seven if you don’t include Deccan in that, seeing as every team has beaten them so far). It’s also not good enough to say that they’re underfunded in comparison to say Chennai or Bangalore who have the strength to replace international players with international players because Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Pune Warriors are in the same boat, a boat that says their resources aren’t as hefty as the ones that other sides are able to call on, and they’ve done just fine and been competitive. I feel a little sorry for Dale Steyn because apart from one game in which he was a bit smashed for a lot of runs in a wicketless spell he’s been laying it into batsmen and has genuinely looked as dangerous and as likely to take wickets as any bowler in the IPL, he just gets let down by poor back-up bowlers in the rest of the attack, comedy fielding and a bating unit that has struggled to make 150 all season. And so Mumbai should win and keep their season just alive but they’re hanging on to some other teams coattails a bit and there will be far harder games to come.

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