Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders clash in the 14th match of IPL 2017 at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. Going into this game, both teams are placed in the same position having won two and lost one.
While Sunrisers tamed Royal Challengers Banglore (RCB) and Gujarat Lions in their first two encounters before tasting defeat at the hands of Mumbai Indians in their last match, KKR drubbed Lions and Kings XI on either side of their narrow loss against Mumbai Indians.
Gautam Gambhir’s men, though, seem to have a slight edge over David Warner’s army in Saturday’s game. In head-to-head battles between these two teams last year, KKR emerged triumphant on both occasions. Though both sides have a potent bowling attack and capable opening batting options, the home outfit seems to have a better balance in its middle order. The home advantage can’t be brushed aside either.
Here we take a look at four key player to player battles that can go a long way in determining the result of the match.
#1 Gautam Gambhir vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Ever since he was appointed a captain of the side, Gambhir has led KKR from the front in the IPL, and this season is not anything different. In three matches, he has amassed 167 runs at a healthy strike rate of 151.81. He has scored unbeaten half-centuries in his side’s wins against Mumbai Indians and Kings XI.
Bhuvneshwar and Bangladeshi pacer, Mustafizur Rahman were among the chief architects of SRH’s title triumph last season. While Rahman missed the first two matches of this year’s IPL due to national commitment and was all over the place in the third, Bhuvi stood out among SRH pacers in all these games. He has claimed seven wickets while giving away only 5.75 runs per over.
The Gambhir-Bhuvi battle is going to be crucial at the top. The KKR captain is well capable of batting for a longer period and by holding one end, he allows the KKR middle order to flourish around him. Bhuvi, on the other hand, is an exponent of swing and has a knack for picking wickets with the new ball. Whoever wins this personal fight will do his team’s chances a world of good.
#2 Umesh Yadav vs David Warner
Umesh’s bowling has been a revelation for Indian cricket this season. He played in all the 13 home Tests and claimed vital breakthroughs on a number of occasions. His moment of glory came in the series decider against Australia in Dharamshala when he hassled the Aussie top order with a display of high-quality fast bowling in the second innings and script a memorable win for his country.
He was kept out of KKR’s first two matches in this year’s IPL, but once he got an opportunity against Kings XI in the last game, he made an impact straight away, picking up four wickets.
Warner is the pivot around which SRH’s batting revolves. He was exemplary both as a batsman and a leader in last year’s IPL that his side won. In fact, his tally of 848 runs at 60.57 was next only to Virat Kohil’s aggregate of 973 runs in 2016. This year too, Warner has already shown glimpses of his firepower with a stroke-filled 76 not out to take his side home against Kings XI.
Warner up against Yadav is going to be a treat to the fans on Saturday. The pocket dynamite from Australia is one of those batsmen who can take the game beyond the reach of rival teams in a very short duration of time.
Umesh was able to dispatch Warner with a lifting delivery when these two played against each other last time in Dharamshala and KKR would, therefore, hope for a repeat of the same feat by their lanky pacer. Warner, though, must be keen to avenge his dismissal and stamp his authority.
#3 Yusuf Pathan vs Rashid Khan
The KKR-SRH tie has set the stage for a high-voltage clash of two Pathans, a Gujarati Pathan and an Afghani Pathan. It’s going to be the might of Yusuf Pathan versus the guile of young Rashid Khan. While heavily-built Yusuf is known for tonking spinners, young Rashid has emerged as a trump card for the Orange Army.
The rookie leggie from Afghanistan has six wickets from three matches with an exceptional economy of 6.16. He possesses a well-disguised googly and his victims include some of the brilliant players of spin including Raina, Finch and Rohit Sharma. Warner will again use him as his wicket-taking option in the middle and that is where he is likely to run into Yusuf.
Though Yusuf has only six runs to showcase from a solitary outing with the bat this year, he can take confidence from his Man of the Match performance against the same opposition at the Eden Gardens last year when he had smashed 52 off 34 balls in that game. How he fares against the young tweaker on Saturday will be interesting to see.
#4 Sunil Narine vs Yuvraj Singh
Sunil Narine has been KKR’s go-to bowler over the years. His mystery spin was at the heart of Kolkata’s two title triumphs in 2011 and 2014. Though he seems to have lost some of his wiliness after returning from a ban for a suspect bowling action, he is still very much capable of choking oppositions in the middle overs.
His spell of 1/19 from four overs was instrumental in helping KKR restrict Kings XI to a relatively moderate total of 170/9 after the rival team had raced away to 95/1 in the first 10 overs.
Yuvraj was the hero of SRH’s victory against RCB in the IPL opener this season when he blasted a 27-ball 62 to stun the opposition. With SRH not having too many experienced batsmen in the middle order, Yuvraj holds the responsibility of batting sensibly to boost his side’s cause.
The battle between these two can turn out to be very exciting in the middle overs. While Narine would like to continue with his run-choking business, Yuvraj would be determined to take him on and re-orchestrate the swashbuckling show he put on display against RCB.