Forty-eight hours. After barely surviving a rollercoaster against the defending champions Mumbai Indians, that is the time Sunrisers Hyderabad have to recuperate and be back in full swing. It’s another reminder of how punishing the IPL can be, and the challenges teams face in staying fresh through two whole months in the peak of the Indian summer. Moreover, Sunrisers will have to switch cities, as they step out of home into the bastion that is Eden Gardens.
With 41 victories, Kolkata Knight Riders are the third-most successful home team in IPL history. That trend extended with a dominant win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in their opening game. Knight Riders are among the most well-balanced teams. Their batting order is full of firepower, and they bat very deep. It came to the fore against Chennai Super Kings, when Andre Russell shellacked an unbeaten 88 off 36 balls to power them to 202, after they were 89 for 5 at the halfway stage.
Knight Riders’ only concern at the moment is with the domestic fast bowler’s slot. Vinay Kumar, who is their senior-most player in that department, has fallen flat, having gone at 2.82 runs per ball in the two games so far. After their failure to defend 202 against Chennai, the bowling coach Heath Streak called for better execution from the players. And while Streak placed emphasis on a change in approach over wholesale changes to the XI, Knight Riders may consider testing the Under-19 duo of Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti in place of Vinay.
Like Knight Riders, Sunrisers have a wonderfully-balanced side. Shikhar Dhawan has done his best to make up for the absence of David Warner with a pair of belligerent knocks. Sunrisers’ middle order has never looked stronger, after the acquisitions of Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan. And Shakib Al Hasan has added teeth to an already potent bowling attack. However, Sunrisers lack a quick striker to complement Dhawan at the top. T20 cricket has often shown us that having one partner buckle down while the other tees off isn’t necessarily a winning strategy. And assuming that Kane Williamson will be largely responsible for holding his end up to build the innings, Sunrisers cannot afford to have two slow scorers in their top three.
In the news
Mitchell Johnson was rested from Knight Riders’ match against Chennai Super Kings due to a “slight niggle”, but Streak confirmed that the left-arm pacer had recovered, and was hopeful of his return. Streak also said that Lynn’s shoulder problem shouldn’t be a concern. On the eve of the match, captain Dinesh Karthik confirmed the same but also said that team decisions would be made on the morning of the game.
Bhuvneshwar sat out the Mumbai game due to a sore back. While he is their spearhead, Sunrisers wouldn’t be sweating too much in case Bhuvneshwar doesn’t recover, seeing as Sandeep Sharma, his replacement, fared well with returns of 2 for 25 in four overs.
The likely XIs
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), 6 Rinku Singh/Shubman Gill, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Shivam Mavi/Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Deepak Hooda, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Siddarth Kaul, 10 Sandeep Sharma/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Billy Stanlake
Stats that matter
Of the 48 balls that Siddarth Kaul has bowled this season, batsmen haven’t been in control of their shots against 25 of them. The numbers are identical for Kaul’s teammate Rashid Khan.
Kaul has taken a particular liking to the short delivery. He has bowled 11 of them so far – the second-most this season – and to great effect, giving away just nine runs, including a solitary boundary, and picking up a wicket.
Sunrisers have never beaten Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens. Of the five matches these two sides have played here, the home team has won all of them.
Among players with at least 600 career IPL runs, Andre Russell’s Smart Strike Rate of 220.40 is, by far, the best. No other player even touches the 200-mark. Glenn Maxwell is a distant second, with 1245 runs at a Smart Strike Rate of 194.79.
Contrary to the norm this season, four of the last five meetings between these two sides have been won by the team batting first.
Robin Uthappa has an excellent record against Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the IPL. Off the 53 balls he has faced from the bowler, Uthappa has scored 65 runs, and is yet to be dismissed.
Use your fast bowlers against Narine. Royal Challengers did the mistake of bowling Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar at Narine upfront, and he sunk them with a 17-ball half-century. Chennai, too, turned to Harbhajan Singh for the second over with Narine at the crease. While the move paid off for them, the contrast is telling. Since the 2015 IPL, Narine has averaged 29.7 and struck at 240.5 while being dismissed thrice in nine innings against spin. Against pace, he averages 18.6, while the strike-rate drops to 156.9, and he has got out to them 11 times in 19 innings.
Batsmen at the top are most likely to score the big runs, which makes Chris Lynn an automatic lock. Even if he does end up being dismissed for a low score, Lynn is unlikely to scratch around, which will make the loss of points minimal. Likewise, Narine would make a safe pick, given his batting position and utility with the ball. Since the previous season, Narine has averaged 19.06 with the bat and struck at 186.92; with the ball, he has conceded just 6.85 runs an over: as fantasy as it gets.
“Yes, we’ve got to be careful. He’s not the first bowler, and he won’t be the last bowler who won’t defend 17-20. We’ve seen (Dwayne) Bravo – what he can do. We’ve seen Andre (Russell) hit quite a few overs for those sort of numbers, like 20-plus. It’s tough when you’re defending the last one, but we did the same thing: hit their bowlers for 20-plus.”
Knight Riders bowling coach Heath Streak impels caution in criticism of Vinay Kumar