With four wins out of five matches, the Kolkata Knight Riders are comfortably placed on top of the Indian Premier League 2017 table with eight points. They have only lost one game in the tournament and will look to continue their winning streak as they take on the bottom-ranked Gujarat Lions at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday (April 21).
In their previous match, Kolkata sealed the deal against Delhi Daredevils in a tense chase, courtesy Manish Pandey’s unbeaten 49-ball 69. His 110-run stand with Yusuf Pathan helped Kolkata make their way back to the No. 1 position on the points table.
The last time these two sides faced-off, a record opening stand of 184 between Chris Lynn and Gautam Gambhir left Gujarat in shambles and a the wrong end of a 10-wicket thrashing. That was the first game of the tournament for both sides, and seemed to have set the tone for how they have fared since then, with Kolkata flying high and Gujarat struggling after just one win in five matches.
Gujarat have a powerful batting line-up, with the hitting abilities of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Aaron Finch to call on among overseas batsmen, and Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik among the Indians. There is also Jason Roy on the bench and Ishan Kishan gave a glimpse of the talent that has impressed observers so much with 39 off 16 in Gujarat’s most recent match, a 21-run defeat against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday. But to turn their fortunes around, Gujarat will need the batting to fire collectively.
That will not be easy against a bowling attack as strong as Kolkata’s. They have the pace of Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile to choose from, the spin bowling talents of Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav to call on, and the all-round abilities of Chris Woakes and Shakib Al Hasan.
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Gujarat’s bowling resources are not quite in the same league, though Andrew Tye has stepped up magnificently and given Raina much more cushion in the bowling attack ever since taking a five-wicket haul, including a hat-trick, on IPL debut. Basil Thampi is another youngster who has shown promise with his nippy pace and ability to nail yorkers.
One option Gujarat could look at is including James Faulkner to lend the bowling even more teeth, though that will mean having one overseas batsman sit out. For Kolkata, the worries are considerably fewer with most players in form and the team gelling well as a unit.
Played 3. Kolkata 1, Gujarat 2.
Head-to-head at the Eden Gardens:
Played 1. Gujarat 1 Kolkata 0.