Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad look for key points, and a way out of the morass

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The Kolkata Knight Riders and the Sunrisers Hyderabad enter their face-off as fourth and fifth on the points table respectively, but they are both in precarious positions. Depending on other results, by the time Sunday’s games are done, things might not look pretty for the team that loses this game at all.

Both the teams have soft middle orders. The Sunrisers have chopped and changed positions four and below through the tournament, and those batting slots are still not firmed up. The Knight Riders have the experience there, but the consistency is missing.

That said, both teams have reason to feel confident. From the Sunrsers’ point of view, the Knight Riders are likely to be without Sunil Narine, have a new captain, and are trying to avoid a third straight loss. The Knight Riders know they won the last time these sides met, and like them, the Sunrisers enter the contest on the back of two defeats.

Therefore, it will come down to which team hides their weaknesses better. Apart from the middle-order issues, the performance of the two Indian pace attacks will be important. Neither team is settled, they are both missing momentum, and for the winning team it can be a massive morale-booster.

Previous meeting

Manish Pandey hit a half-century for the Sunrisers, but they could score only 142 for the loss of four wickets on the back of impressive spells from Pat Cummins and Varun Chakravarthy. Shubman Gill then struck a 62-ball 70, while Eoin Morgan crunched a 29-ball 42 to seal the Knight Riders’ win with two overs to spare.

Likely XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Nitish Rana, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Andre Russell, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Pat Cummins, 8 Lockie Ferguson, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Shivam Mavi

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Priyam Garg, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Shahbaz Nadeem, 9 Sandeep Sharma, 10 Khaleel Ahmed, 11 T Natarajan

Strategy punts

  • The Sunrisers shouldn’t necessarily save Rashid Khan up for Andre Russell. That’s because they have two left-arm seamers who can bowl those wide yorkers that Russell struggles against. While Khan has dismissed Russell in the IPL thrice, the West Indian has a strike rate of 184 against him. Instead, Khan could tear into the other Knight Riders batsmen who struggle significantly more against his kind of bowling: Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana all have strike rates of less than 120 against Khan.

  • The pitches are slowing down every day now, and the Knight Riders’ Indian pacers aren’t screaming for attention. So why not bring back Kuldeep Yadav? Although Yadav has struggled, the Sunrisers top four has three overseas batsmen, and each of them prefer pace. The Sunrisers are also Kuldeep’s favourite opponents too – he has taken ten wickets against them, the most for him against any team.

  • Pat Cummins should look to bowl the incoming delivery to Jonny Bairstow at the top, the way he did in the earlier fixture, when he bowled the Englishman. It’s a glaring weakness in Bairstow’s game, where he averages 18 to the ball that comes into him. Cummins has bowled in three T20s to Bairstow, and has dismissed him twice. Bairstow averages only 3 against Cummins.

Stats and trivia

  • Entering the weekend, the Knight Riders are the slowest team in the powerplay, scoring 7.1 per over. The Sunrisers are third-slowest, at 7.3 per over. Overall, too, they are the two slowest batting teams, with the Knight Riders scoring at 8 an ovr, and the Sunrisers scoring at 8.2.

  • Given a minimum of 30 balls, Russell has the poorest batting average (7.9) against pacers.

  • David Warner (106) and Bairstow (112) are third and fifth, respectively, on the list of poorest powerplay strike rates this season (minimum five innings).

  • Dinesh Karthik has struggled against legspinners this season. In six innings and 15 deliveries, he’s been out to them four times. He falls to a legspinner every 3.8 deliveries.

  • Warner needs ten runs to reach 5000 IPL runs. He will become the first overseas player to reach the landmark, and the fourth man overall.

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