Match 3 of the Indian Premier League, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai, will feature Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Hyderabad had won the IPL in 2016, and have made it to the Playoffs every time since then. Kolkata, on the other hand, were champions in 2012 and 2014. They finished fifth in both 2019 and 2020, missing out on net run rate every time. In fact, Hyderabad and Kolkata were tied on points in the league stage on both occasions.
One can thus assume that the teams are evenly matched. They have more in common than meets the eye, too. For example, they are the only sides this season with overseas captains. And they do have identical problems of outstanding overseas contingencies and inexperienced Indian line-ups.
Consider Hyderabad. They are likely to go with the tried-and-tested overseas quartet of David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson, and Rashid Khan. If they do that, they will be left with an inexperienced middle-order. They had tried to rope in an underperforming Kedar Jadhav to plug that hole, the ideal fit for which would have been one of Jason Holder or Mohammad Nabi. And we have not mentioned Jason Roy yet…
However, apart from Jadhav and Manish Pandey, the middle-order does boast of Vijay Shankar, Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad, and Abhishek Sharma. They were new to this level last season; now, with that experience under their belt, the lineup looks stronger. The seam attack has been fortified with the return of a fit, in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Sandeep Sharma’s durability and T Natarajan’s international exposure gives the attack an extra edge. Holder or Nabi may feature later in the tournament.
Kolkata, too, have the same problem – of too many world-class overseas cricketers. If Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, and Pat Cummins all play, they will have to leave out one of Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan. If Shakib plays he may even open batting. Shubman Gill, despite his obvious talent, has not aced this format, and he is likely to be the only internationally capped cricketer in their top three. Of course, the heavy artillery down the order may make up for that.
The bowling is better than it looks on paper. Even if one of Narine and Shakib plays, Kolkata can still field three spinners. Harbhajan Singh’s stint for Chennai Super Kings will come in handy, while Varun Chakravarthy, if fit, will be one to look out for. Combine that with the fast, hostile pair of Cummins and Prasidh Krishna, and you get a quintet as formidable as any.
An even match, with Hyderabad possibly holding an edge. They have slightly more batting depth.
Head to head
Kolkata have played Hyderabad 19 times and won 12. One of their wins came in a Super Over.
David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad): Warner has 912 runs against Kolkata, at a strike rate of 146. He has hit 86 fours and 38 sixes in 23 innings. If he gets those 88 runs, he will become the first cricketer in IPL history to score a thousand runs against a single opposition. That is the threat looming large for Kolkata.
Pat Cummins (Kolkata Knight Riders): The Chepauk pitch produced turn in the tournament opener, but the fast bowlers did really well, especially in the Powerplay overs. Sunrisers’ strength lies in their top order – and who better than Cummins to disrupt any early fireworks?
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Abhishek Sharma, Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Harbhajan Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Varun Chakravarthy.
A close contest. Perhaps a Hyderabad win, but certainly a hard-fought one.
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