Theoretically, even one more win could be enough for Chennai Super Kings to make it to the IPL 2019 playoffs. On the road for the second of four straight away games, they come into this contest four points clear of the second-placed team, riding the MS Dhoni wave. The Super Kings captain averages 107 this season, and surprisingly, has the best strike-rate (127.38) among their batsmen who have faced fifty or more balls.
Apart from him, Ambati Rayudu has found some form, while lower-order batsmen like Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner have begun to establish themselves as big-hitting finishers. They find a way to post a par score on whatever surface they're playing on nearly every time and take chases down right to the final delivery as often as possible. No opposition can afford to drop their intensity. You do that, and Super Kings will hurt you.
Second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, though, find themselves in a precarious position. They've lost their last two games and one more could see them slip from second to sixth place by the end of the weekend. They've found success batting second every time this season, but teams are slowly beginning to pick up their weakness: batting first. As Dinesh Karthik said after their loss to Delhi Capitals on Friday, Knight Riders are susceptible to leaving a few runs on the field, and their spin bowlers haven't found too much help on the Eden Gardens surface.
With a few injury concerns for Knight Riders, and five days until their next game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, defeat ahead of the break could dent their morale. But as long as Andre Russell's by their side, they'll know that they have a fighting chance right up to the final delivery.
In the news
Michael Hussey, the Super Kings batting coach, said Dwayne Bravo is still a few games away from attaining full fitness, and on a pace-friendly pitch, might consider recalibrating their spin-heavy bowling attack.
Simon Katich, the Knight Riders batting coach, believes Sunil Narine would be available for the match, while they'll take a call on Chris Lynn (flu) and Russell (bruised thigh) on Sunday morning.
The two sides met only four days ago, where Deepak Chahar and Harbhajan Singh left Knight Riders 47 for 6 into the 11th over. After that, Russell's uncharacteristic - but much-needed - 44-ball 50 helped the team reach 108, but Super Kings chased it down with three overs and seven wickets to spare.
Super Kings: 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Scott Kuggeleijn, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Imran Tahir, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Deepak Chahar
Make Dhoni face Lockie Ferguson's express pace. He's been iffy against fast bowlers - as witnessed against Jofra Archer earlier this week, when he took a blow flush on the helmet off a short-pitched delivery. Using Ferguson with a combination of Kuldeep Yadav or Sunil Narine against the CSK captain seems like the smartest way to keep him quiet. Against spin this season, Dhoni has a strike-rate of only 106, while against pacers who exceed 140+ kph, Dhoni has a strike-rate of less than 90, with a dot-ball percentage of 42.1.
Knight Riders could use Shubman Gill high up the order again. In the four IPL innings where he's batting in the top 4, he averages 67.50 at a strike-rate of 150 in the IPL, including two half-centuries. When he bats below 4 - usually entering towards the back-end of the innings - his average plummets to 24.71 with a high dot-ball percentage of 52%.
Stats that matter
Super Kings' run-rate of 6.10 in the Powerplay and 6.60 in between overs 7 to 15 is the lowest among all teams this season. Knight Riders run-rate of 12.80 in the last four overs is the highest in IPL 2019.
Knight Riders are chasing their 100th T20 win. Only Mumbai Indians, Super Kings, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire have won more matches.
Super Kings have only won here once while batting first, and among all grounds this season, they fare the worst in Kolkata, with a win-percentage of only 40 since the IPL's inception.