New Delhi: The three-step road to the season finale enters the second hurdle as Kolkata Kight Riders take on defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabd at Eliminator 1, at M Chinnaswamy stadium, Bengaluru, tonight.
It almost seems like a repeat teleacast of last year's eleminator where both the teams battled it out to move a step closer to the final. But Kolkata's run chase was cut short by a disciplined Hyderabad bowling unit as SRH registered a 22-run victory and eventually lead up in the tournament to win the final. One thing is sure tonight, KKR will be desperate enough to leave no stones unturned and stop the Orange Army from yet another upsurge at Bengaluru.
Losing four out off the last seven matches, KKR inched and crawled and somehow crept into the play-offs. They dominated the early half of the tournament to go atop, but unavailability of players, sloppy fielding, search for the correct batting line-up, all summed up to their falter in the later half. This hampered their constant search to seal their position for the top 4. Courtesy, their net run rate played a minor role to glue them at position four at the end of league stage.
Chris 'Lynnsanity' Lynn and Sunil 'pinch-hitting' Narine, will once again be expected to provide a blazing start to their innings followed by skipper Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, and Manish Pandey. Chris Woakes absence would put ample pressure on Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Umesh Yadav. However, the latter's performance has been a concern for Kolkata.
SRH's journey to the play-offs have been quite an opposite to their oppenent. Winning five out of their last seven matches, Hyderabad hold pole position as they would head into Chinnaswamy stadium tonight. What has been a concern for the Orange army is Ashish Nehara's absence over hamstring pull, Yuvraj Singh's sore finger still remaining a big question and Mohammad Nabi's uncertainty owing to finger injury.
Kane Williamson and Moises Henriques will remain as high hopes for Hyderabad, with skipper Warner and Shikhar Dhawan firing at the top. Bowlers have in fact remained in good shape. Led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, young pacers Siddarth Kaul and Mohammed Siraj have produced ample game-changing deliveries. Not to forget, they also have Rashid Khan and his googlies.
Here are the players to look out for tonight...
David Warner: Scoring over 600 runs this season, the current orange cap holder, David Warner and his consistency with the bat has been one big reason why SRH have finished in the top half of the table. Remember, earlier this season, it was Warner's blistering knock of 126 runs at Hyderabad that stood out as the factor to defeat Kolkata Knight Riders. Apart from that, his captaincy has been quite praised about.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: If Warner has the orange cap, he has the purple cap. Having scalped 25 wickets already off the 14 matches played, Bhuvi will once again be expected play an important role with his swingers off the new ball, early in the game. His variety with pace and line has come in handy too, especially at the death overs.
Apart from that, the 27-year-old has also been a mentor for the young pacers, helping them with ideas and field set-up.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Chris Lynn: Lynnsanity had struck a couple of games earlier on the Chinnaswamy track, when he along with Narine had battered down RCB hopes once again. Much of the same will be expected by the fans when Lynn comes down to open for KKR. Continuing with his form where he left off with the shoulder injury, the 27-year-old has scored a total of 285 runs in just 5 matches with an incredible average of 71.25.
Sunil Narine: Yes, he was the other half of the merciless partnership there against RCB, which scored a record breaking 106 runs in the power-play over. Narine himself set another milestone with a blazing hot 54 off 17 balls. Since his promotion up the order, Narine has been a complete entertainer for the crowd He knows no singles or twos, just boundaries and sixes.
He also remains Gambhir's 'go-to-bowler', having bagged 10 wickets off 14 matches with an economy of 7.27.