Despite their dominance throughout the league stages, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) will have to bring their best to the table when they take on buoyant Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Qualifier 2 here on Friday.
The winner of Friday’s big-ticket game at the Eden Gardens will take on Mahenda Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the final on Sunday in Mumbai.
Sunrisers finished top of the points table after 14 matches and have been quite the team to beat with an exceptional bowling battery and solid batting.
But the Kane Williamson-led side have lost four games on the trot including their two-wicket loss in the Qualifier 1 to CSK and the last league clash against KKR.
Dinesh Karthik’s KKR, on the contrary, have won four games on the trot, their latest being a 25-run victory over Rajasthan Royals in the Eto reach Qualifier 2.
Since suffering their heaviest ever defeat margin of 102 runs against the Mumbai Indians, KKR have not looked back with skipper Karthik leading from the front and the likes of West Indies star Andre Russell and the wrist spinners stepping up to the occasion.
On Wednesday night, the purple brigade were reduced to 24/3 during the Powerplay overs and were in trouble at 51/4 soon after. But Karthik (52) and Shubman Gill (28) stemmed the rot before Russell (25-ball 49) batted magnificently to take them to a fighting total of 169/7.
In reply, the Royals were on course with 87/1 at the halfway stage before Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav spun a web around the settled Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson to effect an effortless triumph in the end.
In the last four outings, KKR have made comebacks from slippery situations, a facet which has underlined the team’s character.
The Sunrisers, on the other hand, bank on their bowling which has a lot of variety and some of the best names in the business.
Against CSK, it was in full bloom as the trio of pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul and highly-rated leggie Rashid Khan brought their rivals to their knees before Faf du Plessis rescued the ship.
Rashid has been brilliant throughout the season and his wrong’un to castle Dhoni in the last game was a thing of beauty. The Afghanistan spinner just conceded 11 runs in four overs and KKR would be wary of him the most.
On the batting front, top scorer of the tournament Williamson has led from the front. The New Zealand skipper, rated as one of the best batters of today, has so far amassed 685 runs in 15 games at 57.08. Williamson has also led admirably on the field.
Sunrisers’ West Indian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite was also good in the previous game with bat and ball, and pitted against compatriot Russell, it will be a mini-contest to look out. For KKR, their main spin weapon Sunil Narine had an off day against Royals and would look to get back to form.
A lot will depend on how the spinner go about their job for both teams as the Eden wicket will offer turn and with the early toss for playoffs, dew might come into play meaning whoever wins the toss would like to bat first and make the most of the conditions, much like Royals did.
Once the track eases out, it will become easy for batting and then the role of spinner would come into play to check the flow of runs. In the league stages, Sunrisers beat KKR here by five wickets.
KKR: Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (captain/wicket-keeper), Robin Uthappa, Mitchell Johnson, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Tom Curran, Prasidh Krishna.
SRH: Kane Williamson (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha, Siddharth Kaul, Deepak Hooda, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Ricky Bhui, Basil Thampi, T. Natarajan, Sachin Baby, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Tanmay Agarwal, Alex Hales, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Nabi, Chris Jordan.