KKR, Sunrisers clash in tight fight for No. 4
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
It was a mere two-day break from the IPL but so much has happened elsewhere in India that it takes some time to reorient oneself back to the game. The daze from following India's national election results on multiple news channels with their psychedelic graphics and over-the-top news anchors is yet to lift. The IPL's television coverage is not exactly the balm one needs, but there is no escape, especially for the teams playing on Sunday, three of whom are locked in battle to stay alive in the tournament.
Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders, along with Royal Challengers Bangalore who play earlier in the day, are fighting a close battle for the fourth playoff spot. Sunrisers and Knight Riders play two of their remaining four games against each other, making their equations a bit simpler; any points garnered from these two games not only help them move ahead, they also mean that the other team slips behind.
Knight Riders, with a two-point lead over Sunrisers, are in a slightly better position. After a shaky start to the tournament, they are looking good. Their spinners have always been their strength but their batting - the resurgence of which is entwined with the form of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa at the top - is coming together extremely well in the second half. Moreover, Hyderabad, where Sunrisers have lost both their previous matches, is their only away game; their last three matches are at Eden Gardens, a ground generally suited to their kind of bowling attack.
The pitch in Hyderabad has been nothing like the slow surface laid out last year. Sunrisers have batted well to post 157 and a mammoth 205 but their impressive-looking bowling has not been able to close the games out. There is enough depth in the bowling and Sunrisers need the bowlers to fire if they are to challenge Knight Riders on Sunday (and Royal Challengers two days later). There are also signs of Shikhar Dhawan's return to form and for the final stretch, Sunrisers will need their captain at the forefront.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: LLWWL (completed games, most recent first)
Kolkata Knight Riders: WWWLL
Where they stand
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Fifth, with four wins in 10 games
Kolkata Knight Riders: Fourth, with five wins in 10 games
Watch out for
Even if Dale Steyn's figures of 4-0-51-0 in the previous match are considered an aberration, there is no denying the fact that he is not quite the wicket-taker in this form of cricket. In fact his length deliveries bowled with pace appear a bit uni-dimensional. His main weapon is outswing and that too doesn't last long. However, if he can dismiss either Uthappa or Gambhir, both of whom are not comfortable against swing, he will have done his job.
Shakib Al Hasan the bowler has been one of the main cogs in Knight Riders' attack, but Shakib Al Hasan the batsman has been a bit loose in his approach. He played a couple of good innings early in the season but has also given his wicket away in situations where things are under control. His ability with the bat is unquestionable, but like Gambhir and Uthappa, he needs to tighten his game to give some girth to an unreliable middle order.
Stats and trivia
- Dale Steyn is the leading wicket-taker in IPL matches in Hyderabad. He has 26 wickets from 20 innings, one more than Amit Mishra
- 315 - the number of fours hit by Gautam Gambhir in the IPL, most by any batsman
- 2222 - The number of balls faced by Jacques Kallis in the IPL, the most for any player. Gambhir is second in the list with 2166 balls
"I am beginning to learn to bluff when it comes to field placements and make the opposition batsmen play according to our plans."
Shikhar Dhawan says his captaincy skills are developing
"I still stand by my thought that the IPL is not a platform for comebacks. Right now I am only focused on the immediate future. If my performances are good enough I am sure the people in charge - the selectors - will make the right decision."
Gautam Gambhir says he is concerned solely with Knight Riders' campaign for now
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo