Fresh off the boost received by Ben Stokes' whirlwind century, the Rising Pune Supergiant would look to take on the second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders with a reinvigorated spirit. Burying the ghosts of the past, Pune have recovered well this season and have kept themselves in contention for a spot in the playoffs.have recovered well this season and have kept themselves in contention for a spot in the playoffs.
Apart from Stokes, the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi, the captain Steven Smith and MS Dhoni have all made useful contributions and have stepped up to take the responsibility whenever it has been required of them to do so.
Their bowling, however, has been a cause of concern especially because of the absence of big names in their midst. While the likes of Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur, and Washington Sundar have done decently so far, their inexperience and the perceived inability to break partnerships has cost RPS on occasions.
In such situations, Imran Tahir has come to their rescue and has delivered whenever his team has been in the need of a breakthrough. Tahir is RPS’ most successful bowler this season and has picked up 16 wickets from 10 matches.
The Kolkata Knight Riders suffered a minor setback in their last game when they were blown away by David Warner's superfluous 126. However, that loss must be taken in their stride and they must not focus on securing a place in the playoffs, that may be guaranteed if they win two more games.
Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have been sublime at the top of the order, with Uthappa being one of the most sought-after wickets for the opposition bowler this season. The reason being that Uthappa has scored a hat-trick of half-centuries in his last three appearances for KKR.
Unlike the Supergiant, the KKR bowling attack has been one of the best amongst all teams and the quartet of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes, Kuldeep Yadav, and Sunil Narine has done wonders for the team so far in the season.
Coulter-Nile has been the most successful bowler for the Knight Riders this season, having picked up 11 wickets from 5 matches, while Woakes, Yadav, and Narine have had 11, 8 and 6 wickets to their names respectively.
Although they were unsuccessful in their last outing, the Knight Riders have successfully chased six times this season and have made chasing targets their forte. The form that KKR's top three is in makes it all the more easier, with Narine providing the much-needed push at the beginning of the innings.more easier, with Narine providing the much-needed push at the beginning of the innings.
Also, KKR have crossed the 170-run mark seven times and the last match against the Sunrisers was their first loss while chasing. Hence, there seems to be doubt as to which way Gambhir is likely to go in case he wins the toss tonight.
RPS, on the other hand, have a 3-1 win-loss record while chasing targets this season, with their only loss while chasing coming against the Delhi Daredevils wherein they were chasing a target in excess of 200.
Pune have successfully defended targets three times in five attempts, and hence, they look to be as comfortable in chasing as they are while defending. However, against a bowling attack as strong as that of the Knight Riders, and considering the fact that KKR had chased down the 183-run target in two sides’ last encounter, RPS would look to bat first if they win the toss, and bat big.
With the kind of big hitters that Pune have in their midst and especially considering the inclusion of Dhoni, who seems to be better placed while setting up a target rather than chasing them – with an apparent decline in his finishing skills – they would look to bat first and score in excess of 200 at the small Eden Gardens.
However, considering the overall balance of the side and the team form, KKR seem to hold the upper hand over their opponents and are likely to come out on top, especially at their home ground.
If KKR bat first: Predicted Score: 200; Predicted Winners: KKR
If RPS bat first: Predicted Score: 175; Predicted Winners: KKR