Thursday, 10 May 2012

Indian Premier League V – Week Five (Part II)

It’s always a busy day in the IPL on a Sunday, there are usually two games and this week that saw three of the teams who contested last season’s play-offs, first up was a clash between fellow Indian national team players as Harbhajan Singh’s Mumbai Indians took on MS Dhoni’s Chennai Superkings and before the game it was Mumbai who were the team on form, having lost only one of their previous four fixtures to turn around a season that saw them struggle to get decent openings from a number of different combinations and struggle to contain teams from scoring big runs, despite the presence of Lasith Malinga and Munaf Patel who have both been in the wickets all season. The Superkings have been even more inconsistent than the Indians, a pattern of form that started with an opening day loss to the Indians at home in Chennai, so with Mumbai’s good recent run of victories, that have moved them up to 3rd in the IPL table, and with that away win in fresh in the minds they will have started confident that they could repeat the feat and complete a victory double over the two times reigning champs and put another dent in their quest to squeak into the play-offs.

The Indians won the toss and chose to field first and they did manage to take the early wicket of Chennai’s top scorer in Francois Du Plessis for only 9 but the rest of the Superkings top five all made starts and they were going along at a decent scoring rate too, Murali Viray (41), Suresh Raina (36), Dwayne Bravo (40) and skipper Dhoni (25) all went along at a nice that was close to or over 150 and by the time Dhoni was out in the 18th over the score was 162 but that wicket was to prove crucial because with a character like Dhoni at the crease you’d hope to be getting 18 or 20 runs from the last two overs of the innings but his wicket sparked something of a collapse of 4 wickets in 10 balls for only 11 runs to bring the total up to 173, which is always likely to be challenging but after the decent start and middle overs that Chennai had in the bank they’d have been looking at being closer to 200 and sometimes a late spurt of wickets that curtails a score and keeps it down to achievable as opposed to frightening helps a fielding side gain momentum and a fresh bout of confidence, and the late over blitz by Lasith Malinga, who took two of his three wickets in the dying overs, combined with three crucial earlier wickets from Rudra Pratap Singh to remove players who were just getting into their stride and which broke growing partnerships, gave the Indians a total that they could aim for and get.

The total looked quite far away when James Franklin managed to make only 1 from 9 balls and the Indians struggle to find a convincing opening partnership continues, but Sachin Tendulkar (74) and Rohit Sharma (60) helped to build the score back up to the sort of strike rate that kept the Indians in the game. It was a bit lucky they had because the Indians suffered something of a collapse when Tendulkar was finally out for the 2nd wicket with the score on 134 at the very end of the 15th over. During a spell that almost won the game for Chennai, the Indians sort of folded, they lost 7 wickets in the space of 3 and a bit overs and with the exception of Dwayne Smith all got out very cheaply. But what an exception Dwayne Smith made, he hit 24 off only 9 balls for a strike rate of 266 and managed to hit the winning runs off the last ball for yet another thrilling IPL finish, there have been so many last over wins/losses this season and with this narrow win the Indians consolidate their place in the top three and close the gap to Kolkata and Delhi, who play each other on Monday (more to follow) and despite the loss the Chennai Superkings stay 4th but with three teams lurking just a point behind it’s a slender hold on that 4th spot.

Especially with Bangalore playing the Deccan Chargers in the afternoon fixture, they will have been expecting to win this fixture comfortably and boost their slightly poor run-rate given how close the league table is and how important it could be at the end of the season. But it didn’t quite work out that way, Virat Kohli who was standing in as skipper won the toss and elected to field on a decent batting wicket, and Bangalore is quite a decent height above sea-level which means a small thing like a cricket ball can go a long long way before something gets in the way of it and Deccan Chargers set about proving that, as Daniel Harris (47, including 4 sixes), Shikhar Dhawan (73), Cameron White (45) and skipper Kumar Sangakkara who only made 10 but managed to make his score off only 3 balls all managed to get the ball moving around the Bengaluru night sky to post a very challenging 181.

Things started at a lively pace for the Royal Challengers as well as Tillikaratne Dilshan unusually outscored his big-hitting opening partner, Chris Gayle by whacking an impressive 71 to Gayle’s 26 to give Bangalore a good start, but a flurry of cheap wickets followed the loss of Gayle as Virat Kohli, Asad Pathan, Dilshan and Mayank Agarwal all fell in relatively quick succession to cause a mini-panic in the Royal Challengers ranks and when Agarwal, who scored 18 from only 6 balls, the score was only 143 and it was already well into the 16th over of the innings and it was all looking good for the Chargers to get an unlikely victory on the road against a team that is supposed to be serious contenders not only for the play-offs but to be crowned IPL-V champions.

But AB de Villiers didn’t see anything to panic about and took the initiative and had the skills, the bottle, the talent and the experience to push the game back towards the Royal Challengers by doing what Dwayne Smith had done in the early game for Mumbai, only more so. The highly rated South African blasted his way to an unbeaten 47 off only 17 balls, in a match-winning innings that featured 5 fours and 3 sixes at a strike rate of 276 and by the time his partner Syed Mohammed pushed the ball to the boundary off the only ball he faced the Royal Challengers clinched a win that was looking very unlikely with four overs to go and with two balls to spare and given the way the IPL has been played this season leaving yourself an extra ball to win a game is just showing off, it was unlucky on the Deccan Chargers, their batsmen posted a challenging total, they were better in the field and until AB de Villiers came in they were taking crucial wickets at vital times and containing the Royal Challengers, to the point where they had become favourites to take the win after Agarwal was out in the 16th over, but they just couldn’t get themselves over the line as the last three overs went for 42 runs to give Bangalore a victory that moves them up to 5th in the table and level on points with the Chennai Superkings with a game in hand, although they do have a far worse net run rate so a few big wins in the remaining five games wouldn’t go amiss. Deccan for all their spirit, competitiveness and good play here slump to another defeat and stay bottom of IPL, but if they can build on the performance here they will give their next opponents, Kings XI Punjab, something to seriously think about.

But the big game of the weekend was all going on in Delhi as the top two teams clashed and not just that but the Delhi Daredevils were without the influential Kevin Pietersen, how would they cope without the big man’s six-hitting ways? Time of course would tell. But the Daredevils certainly started like they didn’t miss Kevin Pietersen, David Warner (21), who came in as opener aided his in-form skipper, Virender Sehwag to 40 in the first 21 balls for the first wicket but the Aussie couldn’t stick at the crease, and for once neither could Sehwag who seemed to be continuing his recent excellent streak with the bat, making 23 off only 9 balls but just as he was settling in to add another half-century to his season he was out, taken LBW by Jacques Kallis, it was a rare failure (if 23 at a strike rate of 255 can be called a failure) for the skipper who managed to temporarily snatch the orange cap from Ajinkya Rahane with his knock, but he would certainly have liked to stick around longer because when he was out in the 5th over the score had moved onto 49 and things were looking good for a big score near to 200.

The next two batsmen, Mahela Jayawardene and Ross Taylor have been struggling for runs this campaign and both set about their innings in a nervy fashion, Jayawardene, who is one of the best players in world cricket, managed to eek out 30 but he took his time, his knock came off 27 balls and Taylor was even less effective in making 16 from 27 balls before he was put out of his misery by Pradeep Sangwan, an exciting flurry of 36 from just 22 balls by the big-hitting Irfan Pathan helped nudge the scoring rate back up to respectable levels but when he was out, stumped by Brendon McCullum to give surprise spin sensation Sunil Narine yet another wicket, he went on to get Naman Ojha as well to add another brace to what has been a very good season for the young West Indian spinner, the Daredevils innings kind of juddered its way to only 153, which seems below par on a decent pitch on a small ground and with in-form Gautam Gambhir set to head the reply for Kolkata and the Daredevils will be disappointed they didn’t make more of their blistering start, which saw the first 3 overs go for 41, despite the first over by Brett Lee being a maiden over, in fact the six dot balls he bowled in that over went a long way towards making an overall Kolkata total of 49 dot balls in the innings and this shows how Kolkata were able to stay focused and reign in the early-charging Daredevils.

There opening response to the Delhi total was if anything even more emphatic than the start that the Daredevils made, with McCullum (56), Gambhir (36) and man of the match Jacques Kallis (30) all taking aim at the Delhi bowling attack and moving the scoring rate on at pace. By the time McCullum was out for the third wicket the score was already at 128 and despite the further loss of Tiwary (8) near the end it was too little too late as Yusuf Pathan failed to outscore his brother, Irfan, but did manage to guide his side home with 8 balls to spare for what was a comfortable and professional win. Kolkata were better than Delhi in all departments, they took regular and vital wickets that curtailed the strike rate, and which broke partnerships, they fielded well to back up their bowlers and they strolled to their victory target with more than an over to go and one suspects that even 30 more runs on Delhi’s total wouldn’t have been enough because Kolkata were clearly keeping a bit in reserve in the latter part of the innings.

In the early game on Tuesday Pune Warriors badly needed a win to reverse their alarming slide down the table, at one point they were actually top of IPL but six straight defeats have seen them slump to second bottom of the table. The Royals managed to get a much needed win themselves in their last game to stop their own slightly wonky run of form and there’s nothing like a game against an out-of-form Pune side to help keep the revival motoring and they set about that task with some relish, several of the Pune Warriors players actually managed to make half decent starts in this game, Ganguly (14), Aussie skipper, Michael Clarke (16), Robin Uthappa ( (13), Anustup Majumdar (30) and the livewire dangerman Steve Smith (18) all made solid but slow starts but failed to build on that and move on to make a big match winning score, the upshot of all that meant that the Warriors only managed 125 from their 20 overs and although you have to judge a total when both sides have batted 125 is surely too modest a score in most circumstances.

But the 125 looked a very long way when the IPL’s former top run scorer, Ajinkya Rahane was out for a 3 ball duck and with the score on only 1. But that just bought Shane Watson to the crease and he’s clearly been enjoying himself in the West Indies with the Australian national team as he’s turned up to the IPL in fine form, which he managed to continue here, making a match-winning 90 off only 51 balls and with a bit of help from Ashok Menaria (18) he guided his Royals team home with more than 3 overs to spare and move his team up to 4th in the IPL standings and the Pune Warriors slumped to yet another bad defeat in which they were very outplayed, there season is going wrong and they don’t really seem to have the squad depth to make significant changes that might alter matters.

Later on Tuesday the Kings XI Punjab were trying to prove their dark horse status was back on track following their defeat on Saturday to the Rajasthan Royals by taking on bottom side Deccan Chargers, who came very close to causing an upset last time out against Bangalore Royal Challengers who managed to get a swashbuckling innings from AB de Villiers to snatch a win in a match that was looking anything but certain with only 5 overs to go.

After Deccan Chargers, who were without their chief attack bowler Dale Steyn, won the toss and opted to field, but opener Mandeep Singh made a great knock f 75 from just 48 balls and with help from Shaun Marsh (22) and David Miller (28) in particular they managed to go at the flimsy looking Deccan bowlers and post a challenging total of 170.

Deccan’s response to chasing down that decent but not insurmountable total was to lose in form opener Shikhar Dhawan for just 8 runs and a steady trickle of wickets throughout the innings curtailed any momentum that Deccan might have been looking to build, they never managed to get a partnership moving and with Daniel Harris top scoring with just 30 the 171 they needed for the win was always too far out of their reach right throughout the innings, they don’t have an AB de Villiers in their side who can rescue an innings single-handedly and hit a lot of runs in no time, in fact they don’t seem to have much of anything. They struggled to take wickets, their batting line-up looks very light and their fielding, especially catching, has been poor all season. The Kings XI moved up to 5th in the IPL standings with this professional looking win and they are firmly in the mix with Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Superkings, Bangalore Royal Challengers and maybe even Mumbai Indians if their match on Wednesday with the Royal Challengers goes the wrong way.

Which brings us onto the game between the Royal Challengers and the Indians, which was a match that both would be looking to win for different reasons. The Indians have already lost to Bangalore and they were beaten by them in last season’s play-offs and they would have liked to have changed their fortune against a side who have struggled for consistency at times this season but who could move up to within a point of their hosts today with a victory.

It was Mumbai who batted first in front of their home crowd and they couldn’t really have made a worse start, losing Rohit Sharma (1) and James Franklin (0) to leave them 2 for 2. A slow and some might say fortunate 22 from Sachin Tendulkar who rode his luck on a couple of occasions before finally departing with a score of 22 from a pedestrian 27 balls and it was only really with the introduction of Karthik (44) and Rayudu (22) that the Indians finally managed to get some momentum and move the strike rate past four an over, even with that injection the score was looking quite sorry for itself when the two were out within a couple of overs of one another, closely to be followed by Dwayne Smith for only 2. But Harbhajan Singh (20 from 12 balls) and Keiron Pollard (21 from 13) managed to move the score onto 141, which seems a little low but with Lasith Malinga in the attack any score is dangerous if wickets start falling early.

Indeed Malinga did threaten, in fact he did all but take a wicket, and that was the problem, whereas the Royall Challengers had the Indians rolling on 2 for 2, the Indians couldn’t manage to get that early breakthrough and openers Chris Gayle and Tillikaratne Dilshan were able to be patient in seeing off Malinga and steady the innings. Dilshan was unlucky to be given out to a catch behind the wicket when he appeared to have not hit the ball to make 19 but that was all there was in the wicket column for the Indians and Kohli (36) was able to ease in and watch as Chris Gayle made an unbeaten 86 to win the game comfortably with two overs to spare and to move his team up to 4th and just a single point behind Mumbai who face Kolkata Knight Riders next, which isn’t what you’d want after suffering an import defeat in a game you were looking to win. The Royal Challengers are up next against Pune Warriors and by the time those two fixtures are complete I expect these two teams to have swapped places in the IPL table.
Results From Games 49 thru 54

Match 49

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Mumbai Indians Vs Chennai Superkings
Mumbai Indians won by 2 wickets
Man of the match: Dwayne Smith

Match 50

M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
Bangalore Royal Challengers Vs Deccan Chargers
Bangalore Royal Challengers won by 5 wickets
Man of the match: AB de Villiers

Match 51

Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Delhi Daredevils Vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders won by six wickets
Man of the match: Jacques Kallis

Match 52

Subrata Roy Stadium, Pune
Pune Warriors Vs Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan Royals won by 7 wickets
Man of the match: Shane Watson

Match 53

Rajiv Gandhi Cricket Stadium, Hyderabad
Deccan Chargers Vs Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab won by 25 runs
Man of the match: Mandeep Singh

Match 54

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Mumbai Indians Vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Bangalore Royal Challengers won by 9 wickets
Man of the match: Chris Gayle

IPL Table

Games Played
Points – Run Rate
Kolkata Knight Riders
17 - +0.660
Delhi Daredevils
16 - +0.880
Mumbai Indians
14 - -0.198
Royal Challengers Bangalore
13 - -0.223
Rajasthan Royals
12 - +0.265
Kings XI Punjab
12 - -0.309
Chennai Superkings
11 - +0.013
Pune Warriors
8 - -0.238
Deccan Chargers
5 - -0.621

Kolkata Knight Riders & Deccan Chargers include one no result due to rain – 1 point each
Chennai Superkings & Bangalore Royal Challengers include one no result due to rain – 1 point each

IPL Top run scorer

Chris Gayle – Bangalore Royal Challengers – 515
Virender Sehwag – Delhi Daredevils – 468
Ajinkya Rahane – Rajasthan Royals – 463
Gautam Gambhir – Kolkata Knight Riders – 457
Rahul Dravid – Rajasthan Royals – 393

IPL Leading wicket takers

Lasith Malinga – Mumbai Indians – 20
Morne Morkel – Delhi Daredevils – 20
Sunil Narine – Kolkata Knight Rider -15
Piyush Chawla – Kings XI Punjab – 15
Munaf Patel – Mumbai Indians - 14

Most Sixes

Chris Gayle – Bangalore Royal Challengers – 37
Kevin Pietersen – Delhi Daredevils – 20
Virender Sehwag – Delhi Daredevils – 18
Francois Du Plessis – Chennai Superkings - 17
Cameron White – Deccan Chargers - 17

Preview Of Games 55 to 61

Match 55

Deccan Chargers Vs Delhi Daredevils
Date: Thursday 10th May
Start time: 11:30am (GMT) – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Hyderabad
Captains: Kumar Sangakkara – Virender Sehwag

Prediction: Even without Kevin Pietersen the Daredevils should easily beat the Deccan Chargers, the Chargers have been as bad as the Daredevils have been good and you can’t read too much into Delhi’s loss to Kolkata, Kolkata are a good team.

Match 56

Rajasthan Royals Vs Chennai Superkings
Date: Thursday 10th May
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Jaipur
Captains: Rahul Dravid – MS Dhoni

Prediction: These two sit just 1 point apart in the table and a win for either side could go a long way to deciding whether either will be moving on to the play-offs or the beach. Both have been inconsistent in a competitive IPL tournament and realistically either have players who could win their side this game, I think Chennai probably have more match-winners in their squad but that hasn’t always worked this season and I wouldn’t back against Rajasthan winning at home.

Match 57

Pune Warriors Vs Bangalore Royal Challengers
Date: Friday 11th May
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Pune
Captains: Saurav Ganguly – Daniel Vettori

Prediction: An excellent chance for RCB to move up to challenge for 4th spot, if they’ve beaten Mumbai on Wednesday and they win this match they could even be up to as high as 3rd which seemed a long way off for them about a week ago and I can’t see Pune causing the Royal Challengers too many headaches, if they don’t win this they don’t deserve to make the play-offs.

Match 58

Kolkata Knight Riders Vs Mumbai Indians
Date: Saturday 12th May
Start time: 11:30am (GMT) – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Kolkata
Captains: Gautam Gambhir – Harbhajan Singh

Prediction: All of a sudden the fixture list has thrown Mumbai some tricky games and they don’t come much more tricky than Gautam Gambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders team, they just took over the top spot after beating Delhi Daredevils quite comfortably to stretch their long unbeaten run whereas it’s highly likely that Mumbai could go into the game having been thwacked all over the place by Chris Gayle and co, tough on Mumbai but it doesn’t mean they’ll get any favours and Kolkata will start as favourites.

Match 59

Chennai Superkings Vs Delhi Daredevils
Date: Saturday 12th May
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Chennai
Captains: MS Dhoni – Virender Sehwag

Prediction: Another game that could go a long way to deciding who makes the play-offs and who doesn’t. Delhi should anyway and barring any last minute of the season wobbles they should cruise into the last four, especially as they’ll have had the chance to get the Kolkata defeat out of their systems by slapping Deccan Chargers about on Thursday but if they win this, against a side who should be closer to them in the standings, they can go a long way to proving that they really don’t need Kevin Pietersen, a defeat could cause some panics.

Match 60

Rajasthan Royals Vs Pune Warriors
Date: Sunday 13th May
Start time: 11:30am (GMT) – 4:00pm (IST)
Venue: Jaipur
Captains: Rahul Dravid – Saurav Ganguly

Prediction: I expect Rajasthan Royals to win this comfortably, they seem to have got over a mini mid-season slump and beat a competitive Kings XI side who are far better than Pune Warriors and I expect Rajasthan to put pressure on the likes of Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai with a result here.
Match 61

Kings XI Punjab Vs Deccan Chargers
Date: Sunday 13th May
Start time: 3:30pm (GMT) – 8:00pm (IST)
Venue: Mohali
Captains: Adam Gilchrist – Kumar Sangakkara

Prediction: If results go the way I predicted then Kings XI really need a win here to have any chance of sticking with the Royals, the Royal Challengers and the Indians and luckily for them it’s against the bottom side and the bottom side who they’ve just beat comfortably, and in which they proved that man for man they have a far better 11 than the Deccan Chargers, although if Dale Steyn comes back into the side that kind of narrows the gap somewhat, but not enough.

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