KKR hopes to maintain momentum against Royals

Kolkata: With a winning touch in their last match, Kolkata Knight Riders would be hoping to maintain the sportive and winnnig momentum when they host Rajasthan Royals in an Indian Premier League return match here tomorrow.

The timing could not have been better for the Knights to capitalise as the Royals are coming after a battering at the hands of Mumbai Indians in their last match on Wednesday.

With the Knight Riders` next match (vs Kings XI Punjab on Sunday) also scheduled at home, maintaining the momentum will top their agenda. Whereas Rahul Dravid`s men appear a bit tired with the hectic scheduling, the Knights are fortunate to get a day`s extra break after their win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday.

It took the think-tank a bit of chopping and changing to get to the winning mode after the back-to-back losses against Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals in season five.

The four changes in the line-up meant that skipper Gautam Gambhir elevated himself to his usual slot, dropping out of form Kiwi opener Brendon McCullum, a move that set the tone in their much-needed maiden victory this season.

Gambhir led the way with a brisk 39-ball 64 to set up a total of 166, which eventually turned out to be a winning one.

But their biggest plus point was the inclusion of veteran seamer Laxmipathy Balaji whose fired-up spell of 4-1-18-4, after Kallis took the prized-scalp of Chris Gayle, set the victory. "Balaji is a quality bowler and has the capability to take wickets on any pitch. Hats off to him for the way he bowled. This was the best spell that I have ever seen in a Twenty20 competition," Gambhir said.

"It feels nice to finally get a win under our belt. To be honest, it was a team effort. I am pretty happy by the performance of the boys."

KKR would hope that sports psychologist Dr Rudi Webster give some mantra to the explosive Yusuf Pathan. Yusuf had scored 1011 for the Royals at an average of 26.6 and with a strike-rate of 161.2, to go with his 20 wickets, but is yet to notch up a fifty representing the Knights.

All-rounder Shakib Al Hasan who was finally included in the line-up after much criticism, is yet to fire and the Bangladeshi would be keen to be in the thick of action on the slow Eden Gardens strip. It would be naive to write off the Royals who turned it around with successive wins against Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders in the first-leg.

For Dravid and Co, having experienced their first defeat in Mumbai – their first in an away match – it would be a challenge to conquer the odds outside home. The bowling would be the main concern ahead of their second outing away from home. The bowlers were at the receiving end against Kieron Pollard in the team`s 27-run loss to Mumbai Indians.

The team would hope that the bowlers stick to the task the way they did against the same team in the first-leg while defending 164. "We have a young bowling attack, there`s a little inexperience there. But there are lessons to be learnt. we will try and keep improving," Dravid said after their loss in Mumbai.

Batting is not much of a worry though with Ajinkya Rahane and Owais Shah in splendid form. The duo gave Mumbai a run for money before the Englishman was castled by Lasith Malinga.

In their last meeting, Rahane was out for a duck after a superb 98 against Kings XI in their campaign opener. The orthodox top-order batsman would look to open his account against the Knights.