Win or bust for Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders v Warriors, October 1, Bangalore
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Kolkata Knight Riders have finally arrived. After an unconvincing win against Auckland in the Champions League T20 qualifiers and three consecutive losses, the team clicked against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday. The bowlers prised out six wickets in the first 15 overs and kept the run rate below 7.00, before the inevitable late surge. The top order, apart from a few unsightly swings from Brad Haddin early on, were efficient.
The question though remains, has it all come together a little too late for the Knight Riders? It's still down to net run rates and other results going their way. They have all but wiped out their negative net run rate by easing past Royal Challengers, but, to have any chance of a semi-final berth, will need another big win against a team that has looked the best unit in the CLT20 so far: Warriors. In game one, against Royal Challengers, Warriors showed they had the temperament to fight their way out of a tough situation. In their second match, they blew away South Australia. A win here will all but guarantee them a place in the semi-finals.
In an aside, Mark Boucher had made it clear he wants to use the tournament as a platform to re-launch his international limited-overs career. With South Africa wicketkeeper AB de Villiers picking up an injury on Wednesday during a practice session with Royal Challengers, Boucher will be eager to make a difference in this match.
Watch out for …
Johan Botha followed up his match-turning partnership with Ashwell Prince against Royal Challengers with a stifling three-over spell against South Australia, in which he picked up Michael Klinger's wicket and conceded only 11 runs. He boasts of the best economy rate (200 overs minimum) in the shortest format - 6.01 - and is 24 runs short of 1000 Twenty20 runs. Will he get past the landmark on Saturday?
Returning after a nasty concussion, Gautam Gambhir looked scratchy in the short time he spent at the crease in Knight Riders' previous two matches. Against Royal Challengers though, he seemed to regain his touch, manoeuvring the spinners with ease and stroking sixes down the ground. His return to form is a big boost for a side that's fighting for survival.
Knight Riders got their opening combinations just right on Thursday - Jacques Kallis bowling up front and Haddin at the top of the batting order worked well. They have finally seem to found some rhythm, so it seems unlikely that they will tamper too much with their XI. One change they will ponder is whether to bring back the experienced L Balaji for Jaydev Unadkat, who went for plenty against Royal Challengers.
Warriors made only one change in their last match, playing Kelly Smuts in place of Justin Kreusch down the order, and are unlikely to tweak their line-up much here either. The big-hitting Craig Thyssen has been dismissed cheaply in both games, but as he hasn't had much of a chance to get going, he should play.
Stats and trivia
- So far in the tournament, JJ Smuts has the most runs from boundaries in an innings - 52 off his 88 runs against South Australia came in fours and sixes
- Kallis and Gambhir's century partnership against Royal Challengers is the second-highest for any wicket in the tournament
"Brett and Kallis bowled tremendously in the first six overs [against Royal Challengers]. But we have concerns regarding our bowling at the death and that needs to be addressed."
Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders' captain knows there's room for improvement
"We would like to finish first."
Warriors' allrounder Johan Botha says his side will not be satisfied with doing just enough to progress to the knockouts
Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo