Monday, May 04, 2009

A victory today will take us closer to the semifinal | Column by Sanath Jayasuriya



HAVING slipped-up against Kings XI Punjab last week in Durban it was vital we bounced back quickly and we did just that against Knight Riders. It was a close game and we made some mistakes, but I thought the team showed a great fighting spirit.

Because teams are more closely matched in this tournament we are seeing tighter matches and more cliff-hangers than in the inaugural IPL. This means that the teams that cope best under pressure will take more of the 50/50 matches. We missed out in a thriller against Kings XI, but we showed a better temperament against Knight Riders, refusing to panic at critical moments. That is something we need to build on because as the tournament progresses the pressure is growing steadily.

J P Duminy’s 52 not out was the game-maker for us against Knight Riders. They bowled well and they put us under pressure. Run scoring was not easy and on 96 for 5 after 16 overs, we were definitely on the backfoot. However Duminy took charge when it mattered most.

In several matches thus far, we have seen crucial runs added in the last four overs of the first innings, lifting mediocre scores up to respectability. We saw RC do that against Kings XI after our game and Duminy’s late rally, scoring 54 from the last 24 balls was a huge moment. Then Zaheer Khan stood up in the first three overs of the chase. He has undoubtedly been India’s best fast bowler in the past year and arguably the best in the world alongside the likes of Dale Steyn. His dismissals of Chris Gayle and Sourav Ganguly secured the initiative.

In the space of six overs the match had swung emphatically. But such is the unpredictable nature of this format, Brad Hodge was still able to give us a late scare with some sensible and skilful batting, reducing the target down to a manageable 38 from four overs. We were under pressure again. However, Lasith
(Malinga), although ultimately wicketless, was brilliant again. His last two overs were near-perfect. By choking off the runs, conceding just 11 runs, he sealed the win.

Today’s match is an opportunity to start pushing greater pressure on both Team Hyderabad and Team Delhi. We will make our progression to the semifinals much easier by claiming win number four. However, Royal Challengers, responding well to Kumble’s leadership, also seem to be growing in confidence

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