There’s not much that separates the Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals. Be it the head-to-head record: 13-11 in the Knight Riders’ favour, the points tally, with both teams having accumulated six points each, and the need to get back to winning ways.
The Royals are coming off a 37-run drubbing at the hands of Gujarat Titans at the DY Patil Stadium and are yet to play a game at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai. The Knight Riders, on the other hand, have lost two back-to-back games at the same venue and will be looking to turn around their campaign that saw them top the points table a week ago but now find themselves sixth.
The sides will be keen to exploit the short, square boundaries on the leg-side and straighter off the wicket but what remains to be seen is how the pitch plays. If the pitch on offer against Delhi Capitals was docile and flat, the Knight Riders were rolled out a pitch with a greenish tinge that made the ball swing prodigiously.
Whatever the pitch, expect Sunil Narine to decode and find a way to bowl on it. His economy of 5.00 is the lowest amongst all bowlers to have bowled a minimum of five overs. He will hold the key once again, in his 150th IPL game, against a Royals middle-order spearheaded by Sanju Samson, who has struck at 223.33 against spin this season.
Nitish Rana, the Knight Riders’ crisis man alongside Shreyas Iyer, who enjoyed a return to form on Friday against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, has defied the obvious match-up against Ravichandran Ashwin by smashing 74 runs off 35 deliveries against him so far.
Despite a rough week, mentor David Hussey identified the power play batting as the main concern of the side and an area the squad has focused on at practice. "We have to sort out our first six overs really. It has been our Achilles' heel in the tournament thus far,” he said on Friday after the game against SRH. “We have to figure out our power play batting. Once we figure that out, we will be able to make regular scores of 200-plus and will be able to play the entertaining brand of cricket that coach (Brendon) McCullum wants us to play."
Both the teams have their death-bowling Caribbean firepower to boot. If Shimron Hetmyer has the best strike-rate of any batter to have faced 20 balls this season (262.00), Andre Russell is hot on his heels striking at 196.55.
Sam Billings, who missed the game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday due to an illness, returned to practice and is available for selection.
KKR: Shreyas Iyer (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rinku Singh, Aaron Finch, Abhijeet Tomar, Ramesh Kumar, Pratham Singh, Sam Billings, Sheldon Jackson, Baba Indrajith, Pat Cummins, Mohammad Nabi, Nitish Rana, Shivam Mavi, Anukul Roy, Chamika Karunaratne, Aman Khan, Andre Russell, Venkatesh Iyer, Umesh Yadav, Harshit Rana, Tim Southee, Ashok Sharma, Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy
RR: Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, Shimron Hetmyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Prasidh Krishna, Yuzvendra Chahal, Riyan Parag, KC Cariappa, Navdeep Saini, Obed McCoy, Anunay Singh, Kuldeep Sen, Karun Nair, Dhruv Jurel, Tejas Baroka, Kuldip Yadav, Shubham Garhwal, James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Daryl Mitchell.