Calcutta/Cape Town: IPL-V champions Kolkata Knight Riders, who are already out of the Champions League Twenty20, will look for a face-saving win when they take on table-toppers Titans in their final Group A match in Cape Town on Sunday.
The Knight Riders have looked out of sorts in the tournament so far and with rain robbing them of a chance to stay in the hunt during their previous outing against Perth Scorchers, Gautam Gambhir’s team would be desperate to end the championship on a positive note.
Titans, on the other hand, are on a roll, having won two consecutive matches. However, the African side needs to guard against complacency to ensure a smooth entry into the semi-finals.
There was good news for the Titans when strike bowler Ethy Mbhalati, who suffered a mild strain at the back of his right hamstring in the previous match against the Auckland Aces, was declared fit. “Ethy was put through a rigorous fitness test by our medical team at Saturday morning’s practice,” said a team spokesperson. “This included bowling a full spell and he came through with flying colours.”
With both their openers firing in unison, Titans have got off to fliers in their previous two outings and it remains to be seen how Jacques Rudolph and Henry Davids come up against the likes of Brett Lee and Jacques Kallis.
The only matter of worry for the Martin van Jaarsveld-led side would be lack of time spent by its middle-order at the crease. Most of the team’s batsmen have remained unscathed and Gambhir's men might well be in with a chance if they manage to get a couple of early wickets.
The real test for the home side will come through mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who has clinched five wickets in the tournament so far, and Gambhir may well be tempted to use him up front along side Lee. Bowling remains a big worry for the Knight Riders. Lakshmipathy Balaji has failed to make an impact and has been too costly.
Although he was economical in the washed-out game against Scorchers, Gambhir may well opt for all-rounder Shakib-al Hasan in his place, given the batting woes of his team and the South Africans’ dislike for spin.