Bowlers in spotlight as KKR, SRH jostle for final spot

Topping the points table at the end of the league stage doesn’t guarantee success. Or even a spot in the final for that matter. Ask Delhi Daredevils of 2009 and 2012 or Gujarat Lions of 2016. Sunrisers Hyderabad flew off the blocks, secured the sort of wins that set the benchmark, and eventually earned the top-spot finish. Yet, as they head into the second qualifier – against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Friday – there’s a blot of the size of four straight defeats on their otherwise enviable campaign. KKR’s path to the knockouts, on the other hand, has been a zig-zag affair, which needed four successive wins to stay in the competition.

But the cliched talk of ‘peaking at the right time’ and ‘momentum’ is often only for the confines of the press conference rooms, and seldom make the difference beyond the boundary line. More so in a knockout game where past performances are of no significance.

If SRH were watching, the key inference for them from the Eliminator clash between KKR and RR is that bowlers are going to call the shots once again. Luckily for them, they come adequately armed. Going into the second Qualifier, there’s a structural difference in the primary bowling combinations of the two sides. SRH go with the spin duo [Rashid and Shakib] and pace troika [Kaul, Bhuvneshwar and Sandeep] while KKR flip it around with two pacers [Prasidh and Russell] and three spinners [Kuldeep, Narine and Chawla]. But the disparity in styles has been largely offset by the neck-to-neck returns – KKR’s five have bagged 69 wickets, while SRH’s have 70 so far.

When: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Qualifier II, May 25, 2018

Where: Eden Gardens

What to expect: The rains have completely stayed away since Tuesday, which means the surface may not be as damp and moisture-laden as it was two days ago. The assistance to spin bowling is still likely to exist. The match day is expected to be greeted with clear skies.

Team News:

Kolkata Knight Riders

The one soft spot in the KKR line-up has been Javon Searles at No. 8. The West Indian has made four appearances for KKR, batting in a total of six balls and scoring seven runs. He has bowled 3 overs across two games, conceding 37 runs and picking a wicket. KKR may have a deep batting line-up, but they’re down to exactly five bowlers if he’s not handed the ball. But he might still retain his spot, considering how expensive Tom Curran and Mitchell Johnson have been. South African all-rounder Cameron Delport hasn’t got a game this season, and it is unlikely that the franchise will take a punt in the knockout fixture.

Probable XI: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Javon Searles, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Carlos Brathwaite’s 29-ball 43 should keep him in the side ahead of Alex Hales, despite a costly 18th over that nudged the result in CSK’s favour in a very tightly-contested Qualifier 1. They should stick to the same line-up.

Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Shreevats Goswami, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul

Head-to-head record

SRH 5 – 9 KKR

Team record at Eden

SRH 1 – 5 KKR

Interesting face-offs

– Uthappa vs Rashid: Uthappa has faced 31 deliveries from Rashid, scoring 58 runs off them without getting dismissed (SR 187.09) – the most scored off him by any batsman in IPL.

– Dhawan vs Chawla: Shikhar has faced 39 balls from Chawla, scoring at a rate of 146.15 without ever getting dismissed.

IPL 2018 trends

– SRH have the best economy rate (7.88) while KKR have the poorest (9.07).

– These are the two spin-heavy teams in this IPL – KKR has bowled 156.3 overs of spin while SRH has bowled 123. Their spinners are leading the wicket charts as well – KKR spinners have taken 48 while SRH spinners have taken 33.

– Eden Gardens has been the most spin-friendly wicket this season with spinners claiming 51 wickets – 20 more than any other venue. A wicket has fallen to spinners every 17 balls at the venue in this year’s IPL.

What they said:

“Kane’s playing well at the moment. I think sometimes people forget to bowl good balls to him. I think he’s one of the players who respects a good ball. So it’s about not to be intimidated and go away from the plan. He’s like any good player. At the moment he’s picking lengths and lines really well so your margins for error are very tight” – Heath Streak on the Kane Williamson threat.

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