With Chennai Super Kings joining Sunrisers Hyderabad in the playoffs and Delhi Daredevils being eliminated, five other teams are in a dogfight for the remaining two spots. Both Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are part of this mid-table muddle, having won six of their 12 matches. In all, two points separate teams No. 3 to 7. So, a loss could mean falling behind quickly, making Tuesday’s clash at Eden Gardens that much more enticing.
After the run-fest in Indore, KKR return to home comforts with a more balanced team. Javon Searles conceded 52 for only one wicket in four overs on IPL debut on a flat pitch at a small ground, but he showed promise with his skiddy pace and first-ball six over long-on. Moreover, given his reputation as a big-hitter in the West Indies cricket circles, he could be used as a floater. Neither Tom Curran, who lacks experience at the top level, nor Mitchell Johnson, who is perhaps past his prime, gave KKR this luxury.
However, the spotlight will be on the spinners at Eden Gardens. The slow bowlers have taken 36 wickets in 10 innings an economy rate of 8 here, while the seamers have picked up four wickets fewer at a higher economy rate of 9.2. Royals’ spinners don’t quite have the pedigree of KKR’s, and they will be further depleted if Ish Sodhi isn’t fit.
In the news
Sodhi was sidelined from Royals’ match against Mumbai on Sunday because of an illness. It remains to be seen if he has recovered sufficiently for Tuesday’s clash.
The last time the two sides met in Jaipur, the season was just 15-games old and Jos Buttler was still batting in a rickety middle order. After moving to 71 for 2 in their first ten overs, Royals scrounged only 89 off their last ten while losing six wickets. KKR chased down 161 with punchy contributions from their top and middle order.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shubman Gill, 8 Javon Searles, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Piyush Chawla, 11 Prasidh Krishna
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Stuart Binny, 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 K Gowtham, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Ish Sodhi/D’Arcy Short, 10 Shreyas Gopal, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
Stats that matter
Sunil Narine needs three wickets to get to 50 IPL wickets at Eden Gardens. He will become the second player, after former Mumbai Indians quick Lasith Malinga (at the Wankhede), to take 50 or more wickets at a particular venue in the league
Since Archer’s debut in the IPL on April 22 , only Hardik Pandya has picked up more wickets than him. Hardik has 15 in eight matches; Archer has 13 in seven matches. Kings XI Punjab’s Andrew Tye, meanwhile, has 13 in six games
If Buttler makes another fifty on Tuesday, he will become the first to six such scores in a row in T20 cricket
How do you stop Buttler? Throw the new ball to Narine. He has dismissed the England batsman twice in eight T20 matches, while conceding only 28 runs off 29 balls. Narine also has a good record against Rahane, having dismissed him three times in seven T20 games, while giving away 59 runs off 44 balls. Additionally, Rahane has only 69 runs in seven innings at Eden Gardens at an average of 9.9 and strike rate of 88.5.
Of course, going for allrounders is the safest bet. If they don’t get you points with the ball, they’ll get you some with the bat. So pick Narine and K Gowtham. Narine is the top wicket-taker for KKR this season with 14 wickets, of which 10 have come at Eden Gardens, and he is the fourth-highest scorer for his team with 277 runs. Gowtham, meanwhile, is the most successful bowler for Royals in the Powerplay with five wickets at an economy rate of 7.3, and his whirlwind cameos with the bat need no further endorsement.
“Destiny’s in our hands. We just need to play two good games of cricket.”
KKR coach Jacques Kallis