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KKR bowling woes under spotlight vs shaky Punjab Kings

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MATCH TODAY: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Punjab Kings

Kolkata, April 25: Mitchell Starc will be desperate to justify his USD 3 million price tag as Kolkata Knight Riders bowling unit try to find ways to be less profligate when it is pitted against a perennially under-achieving Punjab Kings in an IPL match here on Saturday.
KKR is currently second in the 10-team table with 10 points, four behind table toppers Rajasthan Royals (14 points) and the team’s success is largely due to the batting efforts from the top-order.In Punjab Kings, they meet a side that has been inconsistent and despite two good finds in Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma, they haven’t exactly done well during key moments and like every other year, they are all but out of play-off contention.Sunil Narine (286 @176.54 SR) and Phil Salt (249 @169.38 SR) have been phenomenal at the top, Andre Russell (155 @184.52), skipper Shreyas Iyer (190 @126.66) have all been among the runs. Even Rinku Singh, who has just faced 67 balls in 7 games has a strike-rate of close to 160.
Save captain Iyer, all the specialist batters have scored at a strike-rate northwards of 150 and that has been instrumental in the Shah Rukh Khan co-owned team posting four 200-plus totals in their seven games so far.
Only Venkatesh Iyer’s poor form has stuck out like a sore thumb and Nitish Rana’s finger fracture has not only robbed KKR of a master player of spinners but also a very handy off-break bowler.
However the same can’t be said about the bowling unit where Narine with his immaculate line and length is the only person, who has been able to maintain an economy rate of just above 7.10 which is brilliant in times when ‘Impact Player’ is in vogue.The Trinidadian has also started leaking runs and the way Rajat Patidar took him on, hitting him for two sixes in one over, will definitely inspire the likes of Ashutosh and Shashank — the two in-form batters of PBKS.But it is Starc, whose underwhelming performance (6 wickets at ER 11.48) is the worst among the specialist bowler. At an all-time high price tag of Rs 24.75 crore (USD 3 million), Starc must be feeling the heat but to be fair to him, some of the tracks, including the one at the Eden Gardens have been perfect belters where length balls are soaring into the stands.Compared to Starc, uncapped India pacers Harshit Rana (ER 9.25, 9 wickets) and Vaibhav Arora (9.57, 7 wickets) have been more impressive but they have also got hit at times.
Against a side like Kings with some power-hitters at the back-end, a better performance will be warranted from the bowling unit.
Starc has looked unidimensional, relying more on pace and has been reluctant to bowl the slower ones as the batters have negotiated him easily especially in the death overs.For KKR to go all the way, Starc will have to get his mojo back and play a lead role in the bowling department.
Match starts at 7.30 PM. (PTI)

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