Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would look to get one foot into the play-offs when they host a struggling Rising Pune Supergiants in an Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
The Supergiants have had a horrible season so far with only three wins from 11 games and have no chance of making the last four, whereas KKR have won six out of their 10 outings and ideally need two more victories to make the cut.
The Knights have had a lot of ups and downs in their campaign. They started off brilliantly but then somehow lost their way in the middle. In their last league contest at the Eden, KKR lost by five wickets against Gujarat Lions.
It was KKR’s batting which crumbled under some quality swing bowling. At one stage the home side were struggling at 24/4 and even though Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan got them to 158, it just was not enough against the formidable Lions’ batting unit.
Pune are also coming into this encounter at the back of a heartbreaking defeat. On Tuesday, they came out second best against Sunrisers Hyderabad by just four runs.
Chasing a modest 138, the Pune innings never quite got going. They were pegged back by wickets at regular intervals and even for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s finishing skills the target was a bit too far.
The only bright speck for Dhoni’s team in the game was Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa who picked up figures of 6-19 and ideally he would want to repeat such a performance on the Eden track known for assisting spinners.
Even though the KKR top order failed in the last game, they have been a force to reckon with so far.
Both openers-Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa– have been amongst runs and they have been ably supported by the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Yusuf Pathan in the middle order.
Pathan has scored two fifties in his last three innings which includes an unbeaten 63 in the last contest against the Lions.
It will be interesting to see if the Eden strip swings like it did in the previous encounter. If there is grass on the pitch, both sides would want to play an extra seamer. For the Knights, their strength has been spin and they would ideally want a rank-turner.
Pacer Ashok Dinda will be back in his backyard but in different colours and Pune would want him to strike the early blows.
Coming to their batting, the Australian duo of Usman Khawaja and George Bailey need to fire if the visitors have to put on or chase down a healthy total. All eyes will also be on Ajinkya Rahane who has taken up the role of playing the sheet-anchor.
The bowling has been a worry for Dhoni and one would have to wait and see if his headache continues.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russell, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg, Shakib Al Hasan, Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Jason Holder, Manan Sharma, Colin Munro, Kuldeep Yadav, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat, Rajagopal Sathish.
Rising Pune Supergiants: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskaran Singh, Usman Khawaja, M Ashwin, George Bailey, Peter Handscomb, Rajat Bhatia, RP Singh, Scott Boland, Adam Zampa, Thisara Perera, Ankit Sharma, Ankush Bains, Ashok Dinda, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar.