Kolkata Knight Riders host Delhi Daredevils in the first of Friday’s doubleheader at the Eden Gardens. The season is still only halfway through, but the Knight Riders are comfortably placed at the top of the table with 12 points and a commanding net run rate of +1.153. Another win will take the two-time champions one step closer to securing a playoff spot.
The Daredevils, on the other hand, are at the bottom and can’t afford to lose yet another after disappointing returns in its last few games.
With both sides needing a victory, a closely fought match can be expected.
Here’s a look at five factors that could be decisive in the outcome of this game:
With the bat
Delhi’s young emerging Indian batsmen, with the exception of Sanju Samson, have been disappointing so far and need to step up collectively if they are to reverse their team’s fortunes. The lack of an experienced international batsman around whom they can bat is a concern for the Daredevils’ younger lot.
Sam Billings, who opened with Samson, was dropped from the previous fixture after failing to capitalise on his promising starts in earlier games. While Marlon Samuels has been named as a replacement for the injured Quinton de Kock, he is not scheduled to arrive in time for today’s game.
On the other hand, the Knight Riders’ top order is in the thick of runs. Gautam Gambhir (305), Robin Uthappa (272) and Manish Pandey (260) are all among the leading run-getters of this season, while Sunil Narine continues to play delightful cameos at the top.
With the ball
With the newly relaid track at the Eden Gardens offering more assistance to fast bowlers, both sides will depend on their quick men to deliver crucial blows. The Daredevils may retain their combination of five fast bowlers from their game against Mumbai Indians.
With 12 wickets from 6 games, Chris Morris is joint-second in the list of wicket-takers in this season and leads a strong pace attack which includes Pat Cummins, Kagiso Rabada, Zaheer Khan and the left arm pace of Corey Anderson.
Knight Riders’ overseas trio of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme picked up three wickets each as they shot down the Royal Challengers Bangalore to a record-low 49 here at the Eden Gardens last Sunday. Coulter-Nile was rested for the next game but is expected to come back and share the new ball with Umesh Yadav.
Zaheer Khan has leaked runs aplenty in the end overs but is very economical at the start. With his penchant for dismissing left-hand batsmen, it might as well be a wise move to bowl out his overs in the Powerplay and leave the death overs bowling to the trio of Morris, Cummins and Rabada.
The Delhi Daredevils skipper has dismissed Gambhir six times previously in the IPL and has the craft to outwit Narine’s stroke making.
It will be interesting to see if KKR continue their experiment with Narine at the top. The move paid rich dividends earlier, but Uthappa’s fine form and the 158-run partnership he shared with Gambhir against the Rising Pune Supergiant could just tempt them to go back to their original opening pair, especially against the strong bowling attack that Daredevils possess.
A lot has happened in the IPL since the Daredevils’ defeat to Knight Riders at Feroz Shah Kotla less than a fortnight ago but Delhi have played only a couple of games since, slumping to defeats in both and completing a hat-trick of defeats. After KKR defeated them by four wickets, Delhi lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indian by margins of 15 and 14 runs, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Knight Riders have won two out of their three games comprehensively. After losing to Gujarat Lions, KKR inflicted an 82-run defeat on Royal Challengers Bangalore and then romped home with 7 wickets to spare while chasing 183 against the Rising Pune Supergiant.
When the two teams clash at the Eden Gardens today, Kolkata’s superior form over Daredevils’ hat-trick of defeats gives the former a clear psychological advantage over the latter.
Much like their recent form, the history of their head-to-head clashes also gives a clear upper hand to the Kolkata Knight Riders over Delhi Daredevils. In the 19 times that they’ve faced each other, Kolkata have won 11 times, while Delhi have won 7 games; one of their matches was an abandoned fixture.
At the Eden Gardens, the Daredevils have won only once in six previous encounters.
In the first of their head-to-heads this season, Manish Pandey’s unbeaten 69 and Yusuf Pathan’s 59 helped Kolkata emerge victorious in a last over thriller after being initially reduced to 21/3 in the space of three overs. Nathan Coulter-Nile starred with the ball with figures of 3/22 in his four overs and was awarded the Player of the Match.
Thus, while T20 is an unpredictable format, all pre-match factors seem to point to Kolkata Knight Riders as the favourites.