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On a roll, Kings XI Punjab look to maintain momentum against Gujarat Lions

While Gujarat Lions (GL), especially the bowlers, might be low on confidence following the way Delhi Daredevils (DD) chased down a massive 209-run target, hosts Kings XI Punjab are on an upswing, after their defended an ordinary-looking 138 vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) Friday night.

ipl 2017 Updated: May 06, 2017 22:13 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Mohali
IPL 2017,Kings XI Punjab,Gujarat Lions
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) owner Preity Zinta (L) enjoy a light moment with hero of the day, Sandeep Sharma, after they beat Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Friday. Punjab play Gujarat Lions at home on Sunday.(AFP)

Gujarat Lions (GL) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have had their share of good and not-so-good moments in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the last couple of days, as they head into the do-or-die game for the hosts.

Read more | IPL 2017: Delhi Daredevils vs Mumbai Indians live updates

While Gujarat Lions captain Suresh Raina might still be getting nightmares following the way Delhi Daredevils chased down a massive 209-run target with consummate ease, hosts Kings XI Punjab are on an upswing, especially with the way their bowlers defended an ordinary-looking 138 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday night.

KXIP are aware they still have an outside chance of making it to the last-four, and with such a splendid victory in the last game, they definitely start favourites in their den. Placed fifth with 10 points and with four more games to go, KXIP realise the importance of winning against Gujarat Lions, and would be hoping to replicate their performances against Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

What has worked for the Glenn Maxwell-led Kings XI Punjab in the last two low-scoring games is their bowling. By dropping an out-of-form Ishant Sharma and recalling Sandeep Sharma, they have got their mojo. There won’t be many who have claimed the wickets of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the same match, and Sandeep will be Punjab’s biggest strength. Even against Delhi, Sandeep controlled his pace and swing to yielded results.

“I won’t forget yesterday’s match against RCB. A score of 138 can be considered a very small total when you have players like Virat, Gayle, de Villiers in the batting line-up. I kept bowling to my strength and we kept getting wickets. The plan was to get these bigwigs out and then put pressure on others. It was my day. The coach was happy, so was our co-owner Preity Zinta. We have got the winning momentum going and now we need to be consistent and win our next four matches to reach the playoffs,” said the 23-year-old Sandeep, adding: “Gujarat are a great team. The way Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik played against DD shows their class.

“Our batsmen like Hashim Amla, Shaun Marsh, Martin Guptill and Manan Vohra too have done well in the past.”

Sandeep, who is in the mould of Praveen Kumar, was signed by Kings XI Punjab ahead of the 2013 season and has taken 68 wickets in 52 games. The pacer from Patiala, who has been showing his presence since he played for India the U-19 team, has fought injuries and tried to maintain his swing and pace.

Sandeep was drafted into India’s T20 side for the two-match series against Zimbabwe in 2015, where he failed to deliver. Then he had to miss the 2015 season as he underwent a surgery on his bowling shoulder. “It’s tough going through injuries and surgeries for a cricketer. It takes time to settle down after a surgery and then aim to peak becomes very challenging. I’m happy to be doing well in the ongoing IPL. Viru paaji has been my backbone. His backing and confidence makes me put more than 100 per cent on the field,” Sandeep, who had figures of 4 for 20 against DD and 3 for 22 against RCB, said. He has played two U-19 World Cups for India.

Sandeep was ably supported by spinners Glen Maxwell and Axar Patel against DD and RCB, respectively, to finish the opposition tail. With wins against DD and RCB, Kings XI Punjab are peaking at the right moment. “We are taking one game at a time. When we are through with the Gujarat Lions game, only then we will think about the Kolkata Knight Riders match. We should win both our home games,” felt Sandeep.

First Published: May 06, 2017 21:54 IST