Sunrisers Hyderabad so far have played like, well, Sunrisers Hyderabad — nearly unbeatable at home, jittery on the road. The defending champions played seven at Uppal, won six, 12 points in the bag and that was a giant step towards the knockouts. So forget that they had just two victories away from home. David Warner is the highest scorer of this IPL yet, with 604 runs from 13 matches. Hyderabad revel in being over-reliant on their skipper.
Kolkata Knight Riders had two good spells in the group stage. Towards the business end, however, they hit the speed bump and could eke out only one victory from their final five group games. The loss against Mumbai at Eden Gardens last Saturday was demoralising, for the visitors had rested six frontline players. Gautam Gambhir and company need to start afresh.
Warner vs Narine-Yadav
The re-laid Chinnaswamy pitch has made run-scoring difficult. Rising Pune Supergiant’s 161/8 remains the highest total at the venue this term. Kings XI Punjab had won there by posting 138 on the board and bundling out Royal Challengers Bangalore for 119. The ball is not quite coming on to the bat and it makes things tougher for a stroke-player like Warner. Kolkata have Sunil Narine, who can operate with the new ball, if required. They have Kuldeep Yadav’s talent to fall back on in the middle overs. It would be interesting to see if Gambhir starts with Narine tomorrow.
Yadav got the better of the Hyderabad captain at Eden Gardens, when the pitch offered a little bit of turn. In fact, Warner’s strike-rate against the chinaman bowler in that game was 53.84. The left-hander settled the score in the return leg, hammering a 59-ball 126. He just decimated the Kolkata spin-bowling duo in that match. Two overs from Narine against Warner had yielded 31 runs and another 12 balls from Yadav to the batsman accounted for 30 runs. Warner’s made a little adjustment, preferring to stay back against the spinners. When he played off the front foot, he used the slog sweep and switch hit to brilliant effect. Another fascinating battle, on a tricky surface, is on the cards.
Kolkata’s opening axis
Kolkata’s opening axis, Chris Lynn and Narine, is thriving in attack, attack, attack… When they get going from both ends, things become breathtaking. Rewind to the Kolkata versus Bangalore game at Chinnaswamy and feel the force of their hitting prowess. Narine had romped to his half-century in 15 balls; Lynn took just 21 deliveries to get there.
Taking a punt, however, has had its shortcomings, especially against intelligent and disciplined fast bowling. Bhuvneshwar Kumar straightaway went around the wicket at Eden Gardens and castled Narine with a yorker. At Uppal, young Mohammed Siraj bowled straight and forced the make-shift opener to play a poor shot.
All said and done, the Trinidadian, with his 178.33 strike-rate has outgunned, many an opponent. Lynn’s strike-rate, 186.27, is even better. A good Powerplay from them and the game could be all but over. Another area of concern for Kolkata is Gambhir’s recent form; his strike-rate to be precise that has gone below 100 at times. The Kolkata captain is batting at No. 3 to accommodate two marauders at the top, but opening the innings allows him to play at his own pace. So, changing the opening combination tomorrow might be an option for the two-time IPL champions.
Rashid Khan is worth every paise of his Rs 4 crore price tag. The teenage Afghan leggie already has 17 scalps from 13 matches and could be a game-changer if the Chinnaswamy deck assists slow bowlers. Kolkata have had a knack of throwing up match-winners from unexpected quarters. This team thrives in collectivity.
Chris Woakes has flown back to fulfil national duties and an in-form Nathan Coulter-Nile should replace him, unless Kolkata play an extra spinner and bring in Piyush Chawla. Hyderabad coach Tom Moody has revealed that Ashish Nehra is ruled out of the remainder of the IPL due to a hamstring strain, while Yuvraj Singh is recovering from a finger injury and will undergo a fitness test ahead of the Eliminator. Vijay Shankar scored an unbeaten 63 in the last match, coming at No. 4. So the team has a backup option.Tricky surface levels playing field for Knights, Sunrisers.