Knight Riders have an iffy middle-order, but they also have Shakib Al Hasan waiting for his turn
Last season, Sunrisers Hyderabad ended Kolkata Knight Riders’ playoff hopes with a win against Mumbai Indians in their last league game. Sunrisers were a better-looking team then, and they claimed their spot in the top four with a strong NRR.
This season, they became the first to drop out of contention for the playoffs – two wins from 11 games usually do that; they just didn’t click as a unit, but their bowling has sort of come together in the last couple of games. They came close to winning against table-toppers Chennai Super Kings in their last match. And they do have the chance to spoil Knight Riders’ party, once again.
Knight Riders have been in this situation in the last couple of seasons as well – and faltered, finishing fifth, on both occasions. They wouldn’t want to complicate it this time, too, and a win here could strengthen their chances.
They have a better chance this time too. Among the teams in the middle – five fighting for two spots – they have the best NRR. They will be facing the two bottom-placed teams in their next two games, and they have the likes of Venkatesh Iyer, Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy winning games for them.
But they have not been consistent. For one, they have been struggling with their combination in the absence of Andre Russell. Their captain Eoin Morgan has still not found form. They are coming into the match on the back of a loss, to Punjab Kings on Friday. Their focus will be on getting their playing XI right. And it might not be easy to pull that off.
In the news
It is not clear when Russell and Lockie Ferguson, who have been out with injuries, will be fit to play. Knight Riders brought an extra batter in Tim Seifert for the last game, while Tim Southee, who initially replaced Russell in the XI, took Ferguson’s spot on the day. They do have the option to bring in allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, who can not only chip in with his bowling, but can also provide the much-needed batting heft in the middle order. Head coach Brendon McCullum on Friday said that the team sees Shakib mainly as a batter in the top three, though it “doesn’t mean he can’t slot in somewhere else”.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Venkatesh Iyer, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Tim Seifert/Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Prasidh Krishna/Sandeep Warrier, 11 Varun Chakravarthy
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Jason Roy, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Priyam Garg, 5 Abhishek Sharma, 6 Jason Holder, 7 Abdul Samad, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma
Wriddhiman Saha has a great record against Knight Riders in the tournament: he has scored most of his IPL runs against them, strikes at 140 against their bowlers, and made his tournament best of 115* against them in the 2014 final. Barring him, all other Sunrisers batters have scored at less than 110 against Narine. However, Saha has been dismissed by Narine thrice in ten meetings. Knight Riders will want to take advantage of this match up and send Narine to bowl up front to the opener.
Stats that matter
- Iyer has been superb at the top of the order for Knight Riders. The 193 runs he has scored is the third-highest by an uncapped Indian player after five matches in the IPL.
- Shubman Gill‘s average of 19.9 is the lowest among batters who have scored a minimum of 200 runs in IPL 2021.
- Dinesh Karthik needs five more to get to 4000 runs in the IPL.
- Knight Riders have won four out of the last five games against Sunrisers.
Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo