With just two spots left in the 2018 playoffs race, both Kolkata and Rajasthan are neck and neck on the points table with only NRR (net run rate) separating them as they look to impose themselves heading into the dying stages of this year’s tournament. As it stands, four teams still remain in contention for a spot in the playoffs in IPL 11 with Hyderabad and Chennai having already qualified.
At this stage in the tournament, the Kolkata Knight Riders can’t afford to lose anymore matches if they are to qualify for this seasons IPL playoffs. Nobody saw it coming, but this has to be their biggest matchup of the competition so far as they play host to an in-form Rajasthan Royals who are charging towards the playoffs at high speed. Now is not the time to experiment with the team, they have to back the same XI who’ve got them this far albeit not as dominant as they would’ve liked, drastic changes to the combination could hurt them severely. A timely-win against Kings XI Punjab last Saturday saw them avoid a three-match losing streak which could have just about ended their campaign on a sour note, but instead they live to fight another day. Quickly becoming a T20 all-rounder, pinch-hitter Sunil Narine produced one of those dazzling-knocks out of thin air against the new ball as the West Indian wreaked havoc at the top of the order for Kolkata, hammering home a clinical 75 runs off just 36 balls. Narine was well supported by his teammates, all four of Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell chipped in respectable scores as the Knight Riders posted a whopping total of 245/6. That’s the sign of an in-form batting unit, just what they needed heading into their remaining two games of the fixture. Lynn, Russell and skipper Dinesh Karthik will be the players to keep an eye on tomorrow night, two of them being the most electric strikers in the comp and the other proving to be Mr. Consistency throughout 2018. As well as being a very winnable match for the Knight Riders, losing isn’t out of the equation given their constant fadeouts in form. They’ll look to West Indian-duo Sunil Narine and Andre Russell for a generous offering in the wickets department, the rest of the attack hasn’t shown a lot which appears to be their Achilles heel (weak point) this season.
We’ve seen it time and time again in all sports around the world, teams who’ve looked dead & buried nearing the end of a lengthy campaign, only to spring up and shock opposition teams with a miraculous comeback that has to be seen to be believed. You get the feeling that if Rajasthan are to take down the Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, we could be witnessing one of the greatest underdog stories of all time from a cricketing perspective. After a three-match losing streak saw them slump to seventh position on the standings with their season on a knifes edge, the son of god, aka Jos Buttler single-handedly resurrected them in arguably the greatest batting-streak of the tournament as the Englishman struck 82, 95* & 94* to help the Royals defeat Punjab, Chennai and Mumbai in emphatic fashion. Buttler now finds himself the form batsman of the competition having scored 389 runs at 129.66 from his past five IPL outings, that includes two unbeaten 90’s in his past two innings. I guess the only downside to that is he’s due for a low score, which in Rajasthan’s case would be a horrendous outcome having made such an impressive comeback. That problem can easily fixed through Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson and even Ben Stokes who has probably underperformed for the majority of the tournament in terms of his batting so far. Samson started IPL 11 red-hot, only to lose momentum shortly after which has probably hurt the Royals to a certain extent. They do however have reason to feel confident in the field where star-quick Jofra Archer has returned to form claiming four scalps in his past two matches, Ben Stokes has also been a handy alternative with the ball in recent times in a bowling unit lacking ferocity & presence. Funnily enough, two teams who aren’t renowned for their work in the bowling department clash in must-win contest tomorrow night, it’s fair to say there’ll be plenty of runs on the agenda & a whole lot of punishment in store for the bowlers.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Kolkata Knight Riders | 49th match | Kolkata
- Robin Uthappa
- Dinesh Karthik
- Chris Lynn
- Sunil Narine
- Andre Russell
Wildcard pick – Nitish Rana
Top 5 fantasy picks | Rajasthan Royals | 49th match | Kolkata
- Jos Buttler
- Sanju Samson
- Jofra Archer
- Ajinkya Rahane
- Ben Stokes
Wildcard pick – Krishnappa Gowtham
Kolkata Knight Riders (possible) – 1. Chris Lynn 2. Sunil Narine 3. Robin Uthappa 4. Andre Russell 5. Dinesh Karthik (c & wk) 6. Nitish Rana 7. Shubman Gill 8. Javon Scantlebury-Searles/Tom Curran 9. Shivam Mavi 10. Piyush Chawla/Kuldeep Yadav 11. Prasidh Krishna.
Rajasthan Royals (possible) – 1. D’Arcy Short 2. Jos Buttler (wk) 3. Ajinkya Rahane © 4. Sanju Samson 5. Ben Stokes 6. Stuart Binny 7. Jofra Archer 8. Krishnappa Gowtham 9. Shreyas Gopal 10. Jaydev Unadkat 11. Dhawal Kulkarni.