Skipper Dinesh Karthik's tactical nous will once again be put to test when Kolkata Knight Riders take on a depleted Sunrisers Hyderabad in their second IPL fixture at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Much was expected from a revamped Kolkata Knight Riders set-up but it seemed Karthik did not learn from his past mistakes and made some inexplicable decisions that led to their complete capitulation against Mumbai Indians.
Once again, the batting position of their biggest hitter Andre Russell became the talking point in their 49-run loss to Mumbai Indians.
The Jamaican, who was their highest run-getter last season with 510 runs from 249 deliveries and the tournament's highest strike rate of 204.81, was seen at No 6 but by then the task had become extremely difficult.
World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan, who was roped in to bolster the wobbly middle order, also could not do much as the asking rate had shot past 13 by the time he came to bat at No 5.
In bowling too, there was a tactical blunder by holding back their ace spinner Sunil Narine till the last over of power play.
On a day, their biggest buy Pat Cummins failed miserably, Narine was given a go only when his IPL 'bunny' Rohit Sharma was well set.
It really defied logic to see such a defensive strategy by a team now coached by Kiwi great Brendon Mccullum who is known for his aggressive mindset.
Known to put up a balanced side on the park, Hyderabad lacked strength and experience in their middle-order, failing miserably against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Needing just 43 runs from last five overs, SRH lost their last seven wickets for 32 runs to lose the game by 10 runs.
If that was not enough, injury to their all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has compounded their misery.
Skipper David Warner, after being run out in an unfortunate manner at the non-striker's end, will be keen to get into the act, while it remains to be seen whether Kane Williamson has recovered from his injury to bolster the batting department.
SRH bowling has always been impressive and it seems the think tank may bring in Mohammed Nabi to bowl alongside his fellow mate Rashid Khan while Bhuvneshwar Kumar will spearhead the pace attack.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Dinesh Karthik(C & WK), Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Nikhil Naik, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier, Rahul Tripathi, Siddhesh Lad, Chris Green, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Rinku Singh, Ali Khan, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Tom Banton, Varun Chakravarthy, Manimaran Siddharth
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner(C), Jonny Bairstow(WK), Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Priyam Garg, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan, Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Siddarth Kaul, Mohammad Nabi, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jason Holder, Bavanaka Sandeep, Billy Stanlake, Fabian Allen, Virat Singh, Basil Thampi, K Khaleel Ahmed, Sanjay Yadav, Abdul Samad
Starting XI Prediction:
Kolkata Knight Riders: Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik (C & WK), Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Nikhil Naik, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Kuldeep Yadav.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Jonny Bairstow (WK), David Warner (C), Priyam Garg, Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan.
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Sunrisers Hyderabad Dream XI:
Jonny Bairstow, David Warner (C), Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Manish Pandey, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Rashid Khan, Shivam Mavi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav
Pitch Report (What to expect?):
From previous matchups at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, it won't be a surprise if the toss winning team opts to bowl first. With increasing dew and size of the field, batsmen may once again face a challenge to score boundaries, and a chase will seem much comfortable as bowlers will play a key role to contain the batsmen.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik(C & WK), Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner(C), Jonny Bairstow(WK), Manish Pandey, Priyam Garg, Mohammad Nabi, Wriddhiman Saha, Abhishek Sharma, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, K Khaleel Ahmed, T Natarajan
The game begins!
David Warner and Jonny Bairstow are at the crease. Warner is on strike. Sunil Narine will open the attack for KKR!
Score after 5 overs: SRH (33/1)
After a bad game against Mumbai Indians, KKR bowler Pat Cummins is back with an improved bowling performance. So far he has been successful in containing the opposition batsmen, and also managed to dismiss Jonny Bairstow early on. However, as long as David Warner is at the crease, danger will be looming large.
Score after 10 overs: SRH (60/2)
Warner has been dismissed. SRH has to speed things up and script more boundaries to reach a respectable total. The lineup has Pandey and can rely on Priyam Garg to put on more runs. A stable middle-order has been a problem for Warner and Co and the fans are praying that it does not haunt them this game as both the teams will be looking forward to get their first of the tournament.
Score after 15 overs: SRH (99-2)
SRH need to make the most of the death overs. Pandey and Saha at the crease. The main focus should be getting as many boundaries as they can to help set a respectable target for KKR.
Score after 20 overs: SRH (142-5)
Sunrisers Hyderabad's batting line-up is proving to be an issue for Warner. Kane Williamson, who is currently injured, will feature in the squad soon to provide stability in the line-up who is unable to script a decent target or put up with a hefty chase.
However, due credit should be given to KKR bowlers to put seven bowlers in the line-up. Their effort easily contained the opposition batsmen.
KKR needs 143 to win
Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine are at the crease. Gill is on strike. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will open the attack for SRH.
Score after 5 overs: KKR (43-2)
Yet another poor display from Sunil Narine. KKR may not open with the spinner in the next match. However, Karthik and Co have limited hard-hitting batsmen in their side But with a lesser target, that may not be a cause of worry for KKR.
Score after 10 overs: KKR (72-3)
The win looks easy for the Riders, but they have to be careful with the wickets. Gill seems to be in the mood to stay and play it out till the end.
KKR win by 7 wickets!
An easy target of 142 which Kolkata Knight Riders, led by Dinesh Karthik, completed with ease. Sunrisers Hyderabad will have to rethink their batting options which is currently having difficulties in setting a respectable target.
Commenting on the same, skipper David Warner said: "We have to try and go harder at the top. Can't help if the bowlers are bowling good lines and lengths. We need to push as hard as we can. You can see from our running between the wickets, we do do that. But, we got to improve our boundary percentage. I saw, I think 35 dot balls, which not acceptable in T20 cricket on a wicket that was actually nice to bat on. We just mis-executed in the middle."
However, due credit must be given to KKR bowlers who contained SRH batsmen effortlessly, although, Manish Pandey completed his half-century for SRH, but picked up an injury. Warner did not have complete details about the injury but hopes it is just a cramp.
Karthik, who went back duck in the innings, believes he has the privilege of using all-rounders in his team whenever he wants. "We have been working really hard. I think one of the advantages of having all-rounders and it is a privilege to use them whenever I can. The fact that we have been able to groom the youngsters is pleasing," the KKR skipper said.
Speaking about his dismissal, he said: "One duck doesn't make you a bad player. I need to probably up my game and get a few runs."
Shubman Gill, who went 70 not out in 62 deliveries, was elected man of the match. "I have practised power hitting in the last couple of years. I think it was important for us to win. We bowled really and we had to back it up with a good performance. There weren't any long conversations with Morgan. We were just trying to anticipate what the bowlers can try and do. As an opener it is my duty to see my team through," he said.
Both, SRH and KKR had lost their opening clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians respectively.
Next, we have Rajasthan Royals vs Kings XI Punjab. Until tomorrow, it is goodbye from us!