The return of David Warner to the IPL. The battle between the two best bowling attacks in the league. The one-man big-bash that is Andre Russell. The yet-to-be-deciphered genius of Rashid Khan. Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad isn't so much a match as a buffet of cricketing goodness. (Come on, dig in!)
In the news
Technically, he's not been in the news as much, but that all stops now. Warner is no longer the captain of the Sunrisers, and while that may mean he won't be required to do as much media duty, there won't be any hiding from the questions posed on the field. After a one-year ban from international cricket for ball-tampering, is he still as good as he was?
Williamson may not start Sunrisers' first game with the shoulder injury he suffered last week in New Zealand. In which case, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the designated vice-captain, is likely to lead the side.
Sunil Narine missed the PSL with a finger injury but he turned up in the KKR nets in such good form that the team's spin coach Carl Crowe was gushing about him. "His performance levels have maintained a high quality - obviously his batting is part of his game as well - but when you modify your action, to have been able to maintain the standards of performance he has done, credit to him."
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Shubman Gill, 5 Nitish Rana, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk, capt), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Sandeep Warrier, 11 Harry Gurney/ Lockie Ferguson
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 Shakib Al Hasan/ Mohammad Nabi, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Sandeep Sharma/ Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 Siddharth Kaul, 11 Khaleel Ahmed
Dinesh Karthik is an absolute force in the final overs of a T20 match. Since 2015, he has been striking at 173.6 and has found the boundary every four balls. But there may be a way to keep him in control. Statistics from this same period indicate that he's not particularly great against left-arm pace, averaging only 18. Over to you, Khaleel Ahmed.
Sunrisers have one of the best allrounders in short-form cricket but they haven't always used him very well - Mohammad Nabi. He's brutal hitter in the death (strike-rate 193 between overs 16 and 20 in all T20s since 2015) and phenomenal with the ball, especially in the middle overs when he goes for only 6.5 an over. Additionally, he's a good match-up against Robin Uthappa, who averages only 15.6 against offspinners since IPL 2015.
Stats that matter
The average first-innings score at Eden Gardens - in IPL matches and T20Is since 2013 - is 163. That tips up to 171 for day games, like this one.
Last year, spinners produced an economy rate of 7.4 at this venue, markedly lower than the fast bowlers' 9.4. That should be good news to both teams, who rely immensely on their slow bowlers. In fact, KKR's troupe was the most prolific among all teams while at home in 2018 (37 of a total of 52 wickets). Sunrisers' enjoy the same mantle when playing away (20 of 37). So this game may well be all about Rashid Khan and Shakib Al Hasan v Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav
How to counter that? Who can counter that? Well, KKR have Robin Uthappa, who has taken Rashid for 58 runs off 32 balls while getting out only once. And Sunrisers have David Warner, who has hit Narine for 108 runs in 68 balls while losing his wicket twice. We always knew both these sides' batting strength came from their top orders and the numbers lend that credence.
All seems evenly matched, doesn't it? Well, there is one clear, obvious and marked difference between the teams: big-hitting power, especially down the order. KKR have Andre Russell who has a T20 strike rate of 166 after 239 innings. None of Sunrisers' batsmen come anywhere close to that.
The thing is, Sunrisers have always managed to keep Russell quiet, allowing him a highest score of only 19, average of 6.3 and strike-rate of 119.