Kolkata: Facing early elimination, two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders need to record a win to stay afloat when they take on table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad in their IPL match, here tomorrow.
From being atop the table midway into the season, KKR have slipped out after losing the last two league matches in 2015, a scenario which would haunt them once again when they face Hyderabad in the concluding round.
Such has been the competition in the ninth season that no team sealed a play-off berth till the final weekend of the league and five teams can end up with 16 points when the net run-rate will determine the final-four.
Conditions will also be a key factor with the Roanu cyclone causing rainfall in the last two days forcing the entire Eden Gardens ground to be under covers. Both the teams would be watchful of the conditions, even though a clear sky is being forecast for the match.
Leading the table with 16 points, Sunrisers have the NRR advantage and they still may sneak in despite a loss while a win will guarantee them a top-two finish amid the mad scramble.
But it’s a virtual knockout for Gautam Gambhir’s men who are battling inconsistency and an injury to their go-to man Andre Russell.
The big-hitting Jamaican all-rounder, who has two man-of-the-match performances this season, missed the game against Gujarat Lions because of a leg injury and KKR would pray for his recovery ahead of the do-or-die clash.
Russell is KKR’s highest wicket-taker this season, sixth in the most wickets’ tally, with 15 scalps from 12 matches. He also boasts of a highest strike rate of 164.91 per cent among his teammates, and is their fourth leading run-scorer.
KKR needed two wins from four matches to seal a playoff berth but with back-to-back losses, the Gambhir-led side faces a knockout against Hyderabad and it would add to their misery if Russell does not recover in time.
The 2012 and 2014 IPL winning skipper is no more getting success from his spinners, a strategy that had worked well for him previously.
With time running out fast, Gambhir needs to promote his big-hitters. He is also expected to give a good start along with his settled opening partner Robin Uthappa.
KKR had defeated SRH by eight wickets in the away fixture with Gambhir leading by example with an unbeaten 90 to chase down 143 in 18.2 overs.
Gambhir would hope to do an encore against the team which lost by six wickets to Delhi Daredevils in a last-ball finish yesterday.
Hyderabad’s dazzling seam attack is left with a void after senior pro Ashish Nehra’s hamstring injury ruled him out of the remainder of the season.
In Nehra’s absence another left-arm seamer Barinder Sran did a neat job with his 2/34 but it was not enough as Daredevils kept their hopes alive in a rare day of lapses on the field for skipper David Warner.
With seven half-centuries in a total of 640 runs, Warner is second behind Virat Kohli’s 865 in the leading rungetters tally and he will look to lay the foundation with Shikhar Dhawan before the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques and Eoin Morgan capitalise.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine, Jason Holder, Morne Morkel, Ankit Rajpoot, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Brad Hogg, Colin Munro, Shaun Tait, Umesh Yadav, Sheldon Jackson, Kuldeep Yadav, Manan Sharma, Rajagopal Sathish and Jaydev Unadkat.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha, Karn Sharma, Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Barinder Sran, Trent Boult, Ben Cutting, Kane Williamson, Ashish Reddy, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Abhimanyu Mithun, Vijay Shankar, T Suman, Aditya Tare.
Match starts 4pm.