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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

IPL 2018: Bowling constant, batting the X-factor as KKR face SRH challenge

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will look to continue their winning run in the tournament when they take on Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in Qualifier 2 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday

cricket Updated: May 24, 2018 20:32 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Kolkata Knight Riders will look to bank on their home advantage when they face Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL 2018 Qualifier 2 on Friday.
Kolkata Knight Riders will look to bank on their home advantage when they face Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL 2018 Qualifier 2 on Friday.(BCCI)

The aura around Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) hasn’t dimmed despite four successive defeats before Friday’s qualifier against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) here. “They are probably the favourites,” said Heath Streak, the bowling coach of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), on Thursday.

Streak did speak about the advantage of being backed by a vociferous Eden, the confidence KKR would take into the game after four consecutive victories, how the Knights are peaking at the right time but he isn’t undermining a team that won nine of their first 11 matches in IPL 11.

“T20 games are won or lost in a matter of two or three overs. So, we need to forget that and focus on tomorrow,” said SRH wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha who missed the last five games due to a shoulder injury and loss of form.

READ | IPL 2018 Qualifier 2: Memorable matches between Sunrisers Hyderabad-Kolkata Knight Riders

This is the third time in three seasons that KKR and SRH are meeting beyond the league phase. KKR won a rain-curtailed match last year but lost in the eliminator in 2016. From captains earning their keep to overcoming the absence of big-ticket Australian players --- David Warner for SRH and Mitchell Starc for KKR --- to having good bowling resources, this seems like a contest between similar teams.

But what the last four games have done for KKR is help their bowling unit become more efficient. From the time Andre Russell got wickets off successive deliveries against Kings XI Punjab to Wednesday’s eliminator, KKR’s pace bowlers have helped, in Streak’s words, get the team balance right.

Crucial to that is how Prasidh Krishna has shaped up. “He has pace and height. He is not letting batsmen guess what ball is coming next. Guys like Jaspreet Bumrah came on the scene doing exactly what he has. He is another one of those names IPL has unearthed,” said Streak.

“I still think in the first 10 overs we can improve and if we can do that tomorrow and continue what we have been doing at the middle and backend, we can really put them under a lot of pressure,” he said.

READ | AB de Villiers was by far the standout performer in IPL 2018

This match could also hinge on which teams’ spinners make the best use of the track that could help them. SRH bring that element of unknown in that department, Saha said. “Not many really know about Rashid Khan but we have all played Sunil Narine, Kuldeep (Yadav) and Piyush.”

If SRH have better swing bowlers, KKR have ones who are faster. If KKR have more experienced spinners, SRH have a leggie who has flummoxed Virat Kohli. KKR may bat deeper but in Kane Williams, SRH have the man with the Orange Cap. Like a ‘semi-final’ should, this match may be decided by fine margins.