Separated only by net run-rate, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad will lock horns to establish themselves at the top of the Indian Premier League 2017 points table on Saturday (April 15) in Kolkata.
Hyderabad are coming off a loss to Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, a venue where they have lost their last three matches. They will go into the encounter against Kolkata with the chance to break another losing streak away, having lost their last four matches at the Eden Gardens.
Hyderabad have been fortified by the return of Mustafizur Rahman, but the Bangladesh seamer gave up 34 runs in 2.4 overs in a rusty comeback. If he doesn’t find his groove soon, that could prove dangerous against the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey – not to speak of the newfound biffing talents of Sunil Narine.
Kolkata’s decision to send Narine at the top of the order surprised many people, but turned out to be a masterstroke, with the West Indian finding the sweet spot of his bat to get the chase off to a rollicking start and catching Kings XI Punjab off-guard.
Narine’s figures of 1 for 19 in four overs built pressure that Umesh Yadav used to break Punjab’s middle order and keep them to a reasonable target.
As for Hyderabad, the defending champions have looked very good in their campaign so far, apart from the blip against Mumbai. Rashid Khan has been the revelation of the tournament so far, and with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra alongside, they can legitimately boast of having the best bowling attack in the competition, one that they will need to be in top form to neutralise Kolkata’s long batting line-up. In Hyderabad’s favour is the fact that thanks to Gambhir’s sparkling form, the rest of the line-up is largely untested.
This will be an afternoon game, but though the players will have to bear the heat, they can look forward to dew not being as much of a factor as it is in evening games, something David Warner will be pleased about considering the loss to Mumbai. But with both bowling attacks equipped with talented pacers and spinners alike, the contest is most likely to be decided by who manages to negotiate the opposition attack better on a hot Kolkata afternoon.
Played 9. Kolkata 6. Hyderabad 3.
Head-to-head at the Eden Gardens:
Played 4. Kolkata 4. Hyderabad 0.