The Knight Riders play their fifth game of the season against the Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. Both teams have won their previous games, and in very similar fashion. Both posted a score ranging around 200 and challenged their opponents to chase it down. RCB and DD both failed, handing the teams two points each.
After 9/10 matches seeing teams batting second winning, the last four matches have been won by teams batting first. Will this trend stick for a while, or will we see another high scoring chase?
Kolkata Knight Riders
Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (c), Robin Uthappa, Mitchell Johnson, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Tom Curran, Prasidh Krishna.
Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D'Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Where the teams stand
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR easily defended 200 against Delhi, tightening the screws as they did with SRH. The spin trio has been instrumental in their bowling performances of the last two games. Narine climbed on to the top of the leading wicket-takers list after the match against Delhi. Though he has since been overtaken, Narine is helping KKR’s attack prosper with his four tight overs coupled with valuable wickets. Yadav took three scalps in his last game, his brevity in inviting the batsmen to hit him paying off. The pacers continue to be expensive for KKR, a major concern for them as they travel to Jaipur. To be fair, three of their four matches have been played at Kolkata, which has been transformed into a batting paradise by the local ground staff. Still, an average economy of over 10 amongst them is not ideal. Mavi was an exception to this in the last game. He conceded at just 7 in 2 overs, and dismissed Gambhir too. It will take him time to reach his true potential, but him bowling at 140+ in the last game, along with his figures, is an encouraging sign.
KKR should be confident of their total-defending skills after the huge boost the last match must have provided. They have always been a team heavily reliant on their bowlers to dismiss oppositions for cheap. Having a stellar batting lineup in addition to it has been their recipe for success since Gambhir took over in 2011. Karthik rightly restored Narine at the top in the last game, bringing Uthappa at 3 and Rana at 4, followed by himself at 5. He needs to find a position for Gill to bat at which is not number 7, where he is a complete waste. Either that, or bring in an Indian finisher who can play a Russell-like role with the bat. They have a few of those, and it might help Russell play with less pressure. This is another thing KKR need to be wary of; not putting too much pressure on Karthik and Russell to score. Uthappa and Lynn have been getting good starts, but always manage to get out at an inopportune moment. Rana notched an important fifty in the last game. The key still lies with the top order, especially Lynn and Narine and how long they can hold fort before the others have to come in.
Fantasy Picks: In this lineup, pretty much anyone can perform on their day. DK, Russell, and Narine are good picks, while Lynn and Kuldeep Yadav are worthy gambles with bat and ball. Rana was great in the last match, but picking him is still a huge risk.
Rajasthan Royals are quite lucky to have 2 wins under their belt this season. One of them was courtesy of the DLS being at it’s disastrous best. Another was inspired by some brilliance from Sanju Samson, the only player in the batting who has been consistent so far. Why D’ Arcy Short is still in the team after three failures is a mystery. This especially with Klaasen on the bench. Rahane and Stokes have been getting off to good starts, but have failed to convert them to something big. KKR must not think of this as a one-man batting wherein getting Samson dismissed is enough. Rajasthan have a few batsmen who can tonk the ball and are in good touch, like the two aforementioned names and Buttler as well. Tripathi and Gowtham have not had much time out in the middle, but Tripathi has been contributing with some valuable shots at the death. It is uncertain whether Jofra Archer will feature in this match given his recent strides on the way to recovery. His inclusion would be a huge boost to this Rajasthan side, who are on the brink of exploding as a unit. Will it happen against KKR?
Shreyas Gopal of RR is the third most economical bowler of the season after three games, behind Narine and Rashid Khan. He has been sensational, dismissing Kohli and de Villiers both in his last game. His average economy has been 5.71; Narine’s is 5.46. This will be an interesting contest, given two of the most successful bowlers of the tournament and two of the highest run-getters(Samson and Russell) are in opposite teams. The rest of RR’s bowling attack has been pretty ordinary. RR’s misplaced faith in Unadkat and Laughlin’s relative inability to do anything are serious problems for them. Stokes is a good option with the ball but he is far from a premier pacer. Gopal can’t do everything, unless Rahane decides to make some changes. RR are looking strong with the bat, but their bowling is a huge concern that neutralise good batting if the bowlers concede it all anyway.
Fantasy Picks: Samson, Stokes, Rahane, and Gopal are obvious choices. D’ Arcy Short is a big no for any team, and so are the rest of the bowlers. Buttler might be an X-factor for Rajasthan, but KKR has reliable foreigners to choose from.
KKR win. They have scored approximately 200 twice already and have been looking great with the ball in their recent games.
Who comes out on top in this IPL 2018 contest? Let us know in the comments and poll below.