The grass has been trimmed, the pitch has been rolled, the seats sport a new stroke of paint and there is a nervous excitement in the air as the Knights gear up to host Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. This match will be the first home game for the Knights at the Eden Gardens in 3 years after the pandemic forced games to be held in bio-secure bubbles.
The Knights go into the game having lost their opening encounter against the Punjab Kings by 7 Runs (D/L method) whilst the Royal Challengers got the better of Mumbai Indians in a one-sided affair at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Among the bowlers, Umesh Yadav and Varun Chakravarthy were the standout performers in the first game having each picked up a wicket and conceded under 7 runs an over. Gurbaz, Venkatesh and Nitish all got off to good starts in Mohali and will be looking to do one better in the coming game in familiar conditions.
Andre Russell also looked in great touch during the chase hitting 2 maximums and 3 boundaries in his 19 ball 35. The Big West Indian will be key in the contest against the Royal Challengers. The last time we faced the Royal Challengers at the Eden Gardens (In 2019), Russell hit 65 of just 25 balls when we had to chase 214 at the Eden against RCB. His unfortunate run out at the death saw us fall short by 10 runs. The West Indian has a strike-rate of over 200 in his last 6 innings against RCB and The big man looked in imperious form at the practice match during our training session on the 4th of April, cruising his way to a quickfire 50 and clearing all parts of the ground with some phenomenal power hitting.
The pitch at the Eden has always been a paradise for batsmen with several high scoring encounters across international and domestic cricket. However, with a hint of rain over the last couple of weeks, a little moisture on the wicket cannot be ruled out which could aid the pacers early on. Lockie Ferguson has been training after recovering from a hamstring injury and could be a key factor if the track has something for the seamers come Thursday.
The two teams have faced each other 31 times, with the Knights coming out on top 17 times, whilst the Royal Challengers scored 14 victories. On the 30th of March, 2022, We lost our last encounter against the Royal Challengers by 3 wickets in what was a low scoring affair at the DY PATIL Sports Complex in Mumbai. Both Southee and Umesh Yadav were in great form that night sharing 5 wickets amongst themselves as the Challengers labored their way to the target of 129 runs.
Amongst the most memorable of contests against the Royal Challengers, the match on the 23rd of April, 2017 stands out as the Knights defending a score of 131 bundled out the visitors for just 49 runs within 10 overs! Nathan Coulter Nile, Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme each picked up 3 wickets each ripping apart the RCB batting order in what continues to be the best ever bowling performance by a side in IPL history at the Eden Gardens.
Virat Kohli has scored the most runs against the Knights amassing 786 runs in 27 matches with an average of 35.72. For the Knights, former Captain Gautam Gambhir has the most runs against the visitors, scoring 713 runs with an average of 33.95.
Amongst the bowlers, Sunil Narine has picked a total of 21 wickets against RCB which is the most against the opposition by a KKR bowler.
With both the sides looking to grab early momentum in the TATA IPL 2023, we can expect a cracking contest at the Eden Gardens in front of a capacity crowd. Fans of both teams, neutrals and purists all over the world will be keeping an eye on this one come Thursday.