Preview: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will look to pull out all stops in their bid to rubber-stamp a play-off spot when they take on already-qualified Mumbai Indians in their final Indian Premier League (IPL) engagement at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
Bolstered by the presence of co-owner Shah Rukh Khan, who is expected to cheer his team from the stands for the first time at home this edition, Gautam Gambhir’s men have to be at their best in order to topple an all-round Mumbai team who are at the top of the eight-team points table.
KKR (second in the points table with 16 points from 13 games) have one foot in the knockout stages. But with Punjab (fifth in the points table with 14 points from 13 matches) making a strong case for themselves now after two back-to-back wins, coupled with Sunrisers Hyderabad (fourth in the table with 15 points from 13 ties) and Rising Pune Supergiant (third with 16 in their kitty from 12 fixtures) also in the fray, they must ensure the berth with a win.
Although the Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai lost to in-form Kings XI Punjab — who also beat KKR in the latter last’s game — on Thursday chasing a mammoth total of 231, it was efforts from Lendl Simmons (59), Parthiv Patel (38), Keiron Pollard (50 not out) and Hardik Pandya (30) that got them within seven runs of the stiff target.
KKR, on the other hand, failed to chase down a modest 168 despite Chris Lynn’s fireworks with the bat (52-ball 84) against Punjab in their previous outing. None of the batters besides Lynn could get runs with Sunil Narine and Manish Pandey managing 18 which was the second highest score.
Yusuf Pathan’s form has been a worry for the hosts with the experienced campaigner not being among runs for quite some time now.
Mumbai have a different picture to paint in this aspect. The Sachin Tendulkar-mentored twice IPL winners have not relied on one batsman to contribute and it has been a team effort as far as their batting is concerned.
Pollard has been in terrific form and is their leading run-getter with 349 in 12 innings but that he is out of the top ten highest scorers’ list says a lot about how Mumbai have collectively performed as a batting unit.
In the bowling department though, the likes of Mitchell McClenaghan (18 wickets) is the third highest wicket-taker so far in the tournament with Jasprit Bumrah not far behind with 15 scalps.
Meanwhile KKR have been boosted by the return of Lynn from a month-long shoulder injury layoff. The big-hitting Australian has started from where he had left off in the first two games and is the batting mainstay along with Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Pandey.
KKR have struggled with their middle order and on Saturday, Gambhir is likely to open the batting with Lynn. It remains to be seen where Narine is slotted in as the makeshift opener is unlikely to bat at No.8 or No.9 given his scoring spree.
When the two teams last met more than a month ago at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, little-known Nitish Rana took the away from KKR with a table-turning 29-ball 50 alongwith Pandya who hit 29 off just 11 deliveries.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Rajpoot, Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell, R. Sanjay Yadav, Ishank Jaggi, Darren Bravo, Sayan Ghosh, Colin de Grandhomme.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Lendl Simmons, Mitchel Johnsohn, Mitchell McClenghan, Nitish Rana, Parthiv Patel, Saurabh Tiwary, Shreyas Gopal, Tim Southee, Lasith Malinga, Krunal Pandya, Keiron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Asela Gunaratne, Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, Jagdish Suchith, Jaspreet Bumrah, Jos Buttler, Karn Sharma, Vinay Kumar.
With inputs from IANS