Sunrisers Hyderabad play the perfect game. That’s why their wins in the league phase were so remarkable.
To defend small totals, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had to outsmart the enemy. Siddharth Kaul had to frustrate them. And Rashid Khan had to deliver the knockout punch. The legspinner’s lucky his googly has top-secret status. Batsmen under the age of 90 can’t read it.
And to chase ’em down, they needed Kane Williamson to understand that his mastery of defence has other uses as well. Like, when he extends his arms, while taking his usual care to pick the gaps, he can hit boundaries at will.
Elevating their individual skills to insane levels, and combining them seamlessly, is how Sunrisers made the playoffs. But, like any gamer worth his salt would tell you, the boss mode doesn’t last forever. You need contingencies.
And that’s where Kolkata Knight Riders have been brilliant this season because if Lynn doesn’t hit you, Narine will. If Karthik doesn’t smash you, Russell will. If Narine doesn’t make you question why you ever picked up a bat, Kuldeep will. This from the team that came out of the IPL auction with the smallest squad. Friday’s going to be fun.
In the news
Sunrisers have lost four matches on the bounce – their longest losing streak in the IPL – soon after winning six on the trot – their longest winning streak.
KKR have won their last four matches and are relishing playing at home, something which wouldn’t have happened according to the original IPL schedule, which had the playoffs in Pune.
Wriddhiman Saha, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury, was seen going through rigorous practice in Mumbai. Nevertheless, it was Shreevats Goswami who took the gloves for Sunrisers in the first qualifier and he may well do so again.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), Andre Russell, Shubman Gill, Javon Searles/johnson, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Prasidh Krishna
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan, Shreevats Goswami (wk), Kane Williamson (capt), Manish Pandey, Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma
Bhuvneshwar, Billy Stanlake and Shakib Al Hasan kept KKR to 138 in Hyderabad and chased it down with Williamson scoring a fifty.
Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa brushed aside a target of 173 at Eden Gardens, where the average winning first-innings score this season is 193.
Andre Russell has faced four kinds of bowling in IPL 2018 and here is how he’s gone about his work: 229 runs at a strike rate of 209 against right-arm quicks, 38 at 237 against left-arm quicks, 16 at 200 against left-arm spinners and 30 at 103 against right-arm wrist spinners. Pick the odd one out. Hint: Rashid Khan.
- Five KKR batsmen have made 300 runs or more: Dinesh Karthik (490), Chris Lynn (443), Robin Uthappa (349), Sunil Narine (331), Andre Russell (313). Sunrisers, meanwhile, have two. Kane Williamson, who is 15 short of becoming only the fifth player to score 700 runs in an IPL season, and Shikhar Dhawan (437)
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar is four wickets shy of joining an exclusive list – bowlers who have picked up 100 wickets playing for one franchise. Awaiting his entry are Lasith Malinga (154 for Mumbai Indians), Harbhajan (127 for Mumbai) and Narine (111 for KKR)
- Considering the quality of other wicketkeeper captains in IPLs – Adam Gilchrist, MS Dhoni, etc – Dinesh Karthik will savour becoming the first of his kind to 500 runs in a season
- Sunrisers’ economy rate in the death overs has risen from 7.49 to 11.87 over the last five games. Individual numbers have taken a hit too. Bhuvneshwar (8.2 to 15.1), Kaul (6.5 to 9.9), Shakib (7 to 13.5)