Second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders take on the Gujarat Lions in a much-anticipated clash at the Eden Gardens on Friday. The Knight Riders have started the tournament in phenomenal fashion, winning four out of their five games, while their counterparts struggled throughout the initial stage and managed to win only one game in the five league matches.
In the three matches played between these two sides, the Lions enjoy a 2-1 advantage over their opponents. The two sides locked horns earlier in this edition of the tournament at Rajkot, and the Knight Riders thrashed the Lions in their own den, courtesy a whirlwind innings from Chris Lynn.
The Knight Riders have been a dominant force in front of their home crowd, winning both their games at the Eden Gardens and the Lions would require some special efforts in order to breach this fortress.
Take a look at the five factors of winning for both the teams:
#1 With the bat
The Knight Riders have been exceptional with the bat throughout this edition of the tournament. Gautam Gambhir, the skipper for the Knight Riders, has been leading from the front with the bat and effectively shouldered the responsibility of playing the anchor role in the batting line-up.
The last match against the Delhi Daredevils provided the Knight Riders with plenty of positives as Yusuf Pathan returned to form with an explosive 59 to help the Kolkata unit recover from their early jitters. The management would also be pleased to see the growth of Manish Pandey in the role of a finisher for the side as he steered them over the line with an unbeaten knock of 69 under pressure.
The Knight Riders have plenty of depth in their batting department and would back themselves to post a huge first innings total or even chase under pressure.
The strength for the Gujarat Lions has been their batting department as they bank heavily on their overseas recruits, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch, and captain Suresh Raina, to shoulder the batting of the team.
The batting line up has been in sublime form throughout the tournament and the addition of Ishan Kishan in the middle order, gives them the flexibility in the batting order. The youngster exhibited tremendous big hitting skills against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last match and his inclusion will help the visiting side.
#2 With the ball
Nathan Coulter-Nile was impressive in his last outing for the Knight Riders against the Delhi Daredevils and will be looking to carry on the good work in this upcoming encounter. The Knight Riders have a settled bowling unit with Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav shouldering the responsibility along with Umesh Yadav. The variety and experience in the bowling unit give the hosts an added advantage over their opponents.
The Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, have been struggling with the ball since the start of the tournament. They have failed to get their combinations right and have lacked discipline in the bowling department. Barring Andrew Tye, none of the bowlers have been effective so far in the competition.
Basil Thampi, the star of the auction has been bowling consistently well in the death overs and the management would hope that the youngster continues to perform on the big stage. The spinners have been dismal for the Lions and the onus will be on Ravindra Jadeja to weave his magic and provide the team with crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs.
The Knight Riders have a set the trend of going hard at their opponents in the field restrictions. They would be looking to adopt the same ploy against the Lions and enable their captain, Gautam Gambhir to play the anchor role throughout the innings.
They would look to take advantage of the inexperienced bowling line up of the Gujarat Lions and put up a huge score on the board. In the bowling department, the Knights restricted the scoring rate of their opponents with the help of their spinners bowling in tandem and the same would be expected from them against the Lions. They would look to strangle the batsmen and build pressure with the help of their spinners, resulting in crucial breakthroughs.
The Lions would be hoping for the bowling department led by Andrew Tye to come good against the Knight Riders. This has been their weak link throughout this edition and they will be looking to turn things around with some match winning spells.
They would be expecting their in-form batters to continue with the good work and hope to build the small partnerships into something substantial. The bowling unit will be under the spotlight and they need to come up with the goods if the Lions have any chance of making it into the playoffs.
#4 Pitch and Conditions
The wicket at the Eden Gardens has been relaid and the hard new surface will help the fast bowlers of the Knight Riders. Umesh Yadav and Nathan Coulter-Nile will look to hit the deck hard and extract as much as possible from this relaid wicket.
As the ball gets soft, the spinner will come into play and the Knight Riders rely heavily on their spin department in the middle overs to put the brakes on the scoring rate.
The batting line up of the Gujarat Lions would enjoy the conditions on offer at the ground as the ball will skid on to the bat making it easy for stroke-play in the initial overs. The Lions will also be benefited by the large boundaries as this will give their spinners he much-needed cushion.
Once the ball gets a little soft, it will make the execution of big shots a tad difficult and this would give the bowling unit of the Lions confidence.
Kuldeep Yadav announced himself on the big stage with his brilliant performance in the final Test match against Australian at Dharamshala. The Chinaman bowler has continued to impress with his control and variation in this edition of the IPL and will be the key man in the bowling unit for the Knight Riders.
The 22-year-old spinner bowled exceptionally well in their last home game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. He displayed extraordinary control and expertise to strangle the Sunrisers batting line-up, including their skipper, David Warner. Kuldeep’s exploits with the ball will be crucial for the Knight Riders and have a huge bearing on the outcome of the game.
Andrew Tye has been the find of the tournament for the Gujarat Lions in the tenth season of the tournament. He made a dream debut in the IPL as he scalped five wickets, including a hat-trick against the Rising Pune Supergiant. He has been one of the most economical bowlers for the Lions with a variety of variations up his sleeve.
The knuckleball being his potent weapon, Tye has provided crucial breakthroughs in the death overs and also helped in restricting the flow of runs. His four overs will be crucial for the Lions as he has been the wicket taker for Suresh Raina and his performance will be critical for the visiting team.