Kolkata: Buoyant Kolkata Knight Riders will look to continue their winning momentum when they face defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League here today.
It will be a battle between two top bowling sides of the IPL and Kolkata will hope to avenge their defeat in the Eliminator round last season.
After a win and a loss, the two-time former champions began their campaign at home with an eight-wicket thrashing of Kings XI Punjab with 21 balls to spare on Thursday night.
Their 11th successive run-chase at Eden Gardens, which began in the triumphant 2012 season, was made possible by another Gautam Gambhir masterstroke in letting Sunil Narine open the innings as the duo killed their chase with their best ever Powerplay display of 76 runs.
The KKR ‘mystery’ spinner showed his skill with the bat, slamming three sixes and four boundaries en route to a 18-ball 37 after regular opener Chris Lynn unfortunately aggravated his old shoulder injury.
The victory was no lesser than KKR’s 10-wicket win in the opening match against Gujarat Lions where Lynn and Gambhir shared a T20 record opening stand of 184.
KKR’s spirited run was halted by Mumbai Indians in their second match but the victory with Narine shining with the bat will boost the team which is struggling to find Lynn’s immediate replacement.
In the transformed Eden Gardens track, India star pacer Umesh Yadav claimed four wickets in his comeback match after an injury layoff and it will further boost their morale.
Yadav, who finished the season as India’s third highest wicket-taker behind R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, got into the act especially at the death after conceding 11 runs in his opening over.
At a time when KXIP were sighting a score of 200, Yadav dismissed David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha of successive balls and took his fourth wicket in Axar Patel in the last delivery that restricted them to 170/9. With SRH also boasting a superb pace-cum-spin attack in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan, who lead the tally with 13 wickets from three matches, it promises to be a nice contest between bat and ball.
Purple Cap holder Bhuvneshwar has been outstanding at the death and he and veteran Ashish Nehra are two key Indians of their pace attack that also features Mustafizur Rahman who played a key role in their 2016 title-winning journey.
The Bangladeshi pacer conceded 19 runs from his first over to return with poor figures of 2.4-0-34-0 against Mumbai and he would look to get back his ‘fizz’.
Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who has foxed the batsmen with ease to return with six wickets from three outings, will be the one to watch out for.
KKR have a 6-3 win-loss record against Sunrisers. Having lost both at home and away in the league round, SRH had the last laugh over KKR in the game that mattered most — in the Eliminator. But come Saturday, KKR will pose a bigger threat at their home conditions.
One of the reasons for KKR’s consistency has been their skipper Gambhir’s form with the bat. He notched up a record- equalling 33rd IPL fifty (with David Warner) during his unbeaten 72 against KXIP and the left-hander will be their key batsmen in these conditions.
The only concern for the team will be their butterfingered fielders. They virtually slipped the match out of their hands before Yadav restored parity. Dew played a big role in SRH’s four-wicket defeat in Mumbai that halted their two-match winning run but it would not be much of a concern here with the match being a 4pm start.
The Teams :
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Darren Bravo, Trent Boult, Piyush Chawla, Nathan Coulter Nile, Colin de Grandhomme, Rishi Dhawan, Sayan Ghosh, Shaikb-Al-Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Ishank Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Woakes, Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ankit Rajpoot, Suryakumar Yadav, Robin Uthappa and Umesh Yadav.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques, Yuvraj Singh, Deepak Hooda, Ben Cutting, Naman Ojha, Bipul Sharma, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Tanmay Agarwal, Ricky Bhui, Eklavya Dwivedi, Chris Jordan, Kane Williamson, Siddharth Kaul, Ben Laughlin, Abhimanyu Mithun, Mohd Nabi, Mohd Siraj, Vijay Shankar, B Sran and Pravin Tambe.
Match starts: 4pm IST