For two-time Indian Premier League Champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, it has been an inconsistent season. After 13 games, the side led by Dinesh Karthik has won seven games, and are sitting in the third position with 14 points. But some huge losses in the middle period has seen their Net Run Rate go down to -0.091, and made their road to Playoffs more difficult. With KKR’s final round robin match against the table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, the visitors cannot afford to make a mistake.
KKR will look to take confidence from the fact that they will be entering on the back of two consecutive victories. With sensational batting performance by Sunil Narine and skipper Dinesh Karthik himself, the side defeated Kings XI Punjab by 31 runs, followed by a win over Rajasthan Royals by 6 wickets. But with Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore too scoring victories this week, KKR are still not clear of a chance at the top-four finish and will have to battle it out in a five-way competition.
Narine, who smashed 75 runs in 36 balls against KXIP, and Lynn, who has consistently chipped in with runs at the top order, along with Karthik, hold the key to KKR’s success. KKR batting line-up features heavy hitters such as Andre Russell down the lower order, who can hammer huge sixes in the death overs. What the side needs is a good start from a solid top order, to give them the boost and instill the confidence of the middle order. Robin Uthappa, who has consistently scored 30s and 40s this season, will look to take on extra responsibility and bat longer. Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana too need to deliver with the bat in the crucial game.
On the bowling front, Kuldeep Yadav, who took four-for in the previous match against RR, will be flying high on confidence. With Hyderabad pitch slightly slower than other wickets this season, the trio of Narine, Yadav and Piyush Chawla could do extensive damage to the in-form batting line-up of SRH, that feature the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, and skipper Kane Williamson.
The New Zealand international has now scored three consecutive fifties. On Thursday, Williamson hammered 81 runs in 42 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore, and went on to take his total to 625 runs in the tournament, just 27 runs behind Orange cap holder KL Rahul. If KKR can find a way to get him out cheaply, it will boost their confidence against a side that will be slightly low on confidence after two straight defeats.
SRH’s bowling has been brilliant but the disastrous spell by seamer Basil Thampi, who gave away 70 runs and took no wickets in his four overs against RCB, is likely to see him miss out against KKR. Rashid Khan, who took 3 wickets in the same match will hold the key for the side in the bowling front, along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul.
If KKR lose the game, they are likely to lose out on NRR and will have to hope that MI and RCB, who have a higher NRR, lose their remaining fixtures against DD and RR, respectively.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kane Williamson (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha, Siddharth Kaul, Deepak Hooda, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Ricky Bhui, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan, Sachin Baby, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Tanmay Agarwal, Alex Hales, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Nabi and Chris Jordan.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (c), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R. Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi, Tom Curran.