Kolkata: A win away from clinching an IPL playoff berth, the high-flying Kolkata Knight Riders would look to complete the formalities against a beleaguered Royal Challengers Bangalore when the two teams clash at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.
The Knight Riders have shown glimpses of their form in the triumphant 2012 season when they enjoyed their largest winning run of six matches, a record they would look to emulate after notching a high five with an eight-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings here last night.
Robin Uthappa`s belligerent 39-ball 67, his fourth half century of the season, followed by Shakib Al Hasan`s 21-ball 46 not out ensured that the Knight Riders cantered home with two overs to spare. The win was significant as it brought on a four-point divide between the top four and bottom four teams, a gap that would be difficult to bridge especially for teams like Bangalore and Hyderabad who are not technically out of contention.
The Knight Riders had begun the home stretch more than a month after the season seven began in UAE but it was worth the wait as they have bounced back strongly from a four-match losing streak in the first leg with a rethinking in the batting order.
It has been a resurrection for Uthappa who last featured for India more than two years ago in T20. Uthappa`s has been phenomenal after being promoted up the order with his last seven innings reading 47, 65, 47, 46, 80, 40 and 67. He would surely be looking forward to being in contention for India`s England tour.
With 489 runs from 12 matches, Uthappa leads run charts among the Indians and lies next to Orange cap holder Glenn Maxwell who has 531 from 11 matches.
With skipper Gautam Gambhir, Uthappa also put on two century-plus partnerships in the last six matches. With the duo in sublime form, it has been a case of building a strong foundation to make it easy for the middle order which has not been tested the way the team think tank would have liked to.
All their five wins have come chasing the target with a strong foundation by the openers after their bowlers have restricted opposition teams to below 160.
Yusuf Pathan had a brief run along with Ryan ten Doeschate in their win against Sunrisers Hyderabad but it would be interesting to see how Knight Riders set a total if they were put in. Royal Challengers are well aware that even two wins in a row won`t help their playoff chances if some other results don`t go their way.
On the batting front, Chris Gayle and Parthiv Patel have looked out of form and in their match against Hyderabad, Royal Challengers had a woefully slow start scoring just 48 runs from the first 10 overs. Gayle scored 14 from 20 balls, while Yuvraj Singh was equally sloppy in a 25-ball 21, something that took the match away from them.
Bangalore can, however, count on Virat Kohli`s return to form after the captain scored his first half century this season to lift their total to 160/6 against Sunrisers Hyderabad. This being an afternoon start, both teams would be wary of the severe heat wave prevailing in this part for about a month now.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Pat Cummins, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Andre Russell, Morne Morkel, Chris Lynn, R Vinay Kumar, Manvinder Bisla, Debabrata Das, Kuldeep Yadav, Sayan Mondal and Veer Pratap Singh.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Chris Gayle, Parthiv Patel, Yuvraj Singh, AB de Villiers, Sachin Rana, Mitchell Starc, Muttiah Muralitharan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Abu Nechim, Varun Aaron, Albie Morkel, Ravi Rampaul, Rilee Rossouw, Ashok Dinda, Shadab Jakati, Yogesh Takawale, Vijay Zol, Tanmay Mishra, Harshal Patel and Sandeep Warrior.