Dented KKR faces resurgent RPS

Kolkata Knight Riders has closed in on booking a berth in the playoffs and cannot afford to lose further momentum against Rising Pune Supergiant, which is placed fourth with 12 points after securing five wins in its last six outings.

Imran Tahir is the second highest wicket-taker this season so far, behind Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar.   -  PTI

After being blown away by David Warner’s breathtaking hundred in Hyderabad, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) is facing a similar danger from another century-maker, Ben Stokes, when it meets Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) in the Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday.

KKR has closed in on booking a berth in the playoffs and cannot afford to lose further momentum against RPS, which is placed fourth with 12 points after securing five wins in its last six outings. Other than bothering about several match-winners in the touring side, KKR may have to deal with the divided loyalty in the stands because of RPS’ Kolkata roots and the presence of the charismatic M. S. Dhoni in the opposition camp.

Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, all of KKR bowlers barring new ball bowlers Nathan Coulter-Nile and Umesh Yadav were taken to the cleaners. The host will have to regroup its bowling unit that made the chase, which was considered one of KKR’s strong areas, an arduous task in Hyderabad.

KKR’s batting should not be a worrying factor for its captain Gautam Gambhir. With Robin Uthappa going through a dream run and Manish Pandey rediscovering his touch, the team should be motivated to put up another fine show with the bat. It will be interesting to see whether Gambhir tries out a new opening combination after witnessing Sunil Narine lose his impact in the last three matches.

Parsimonious bowlers

RPS has primarily gained from the economical performance of its bowlers. Seven of its bowlers have an economy of less than eight runs per over. They know how to stifle the rival batsmen. Young off-spinner Washington Sundar and pace bowling all-rounder Dan Christian may not have picked up too many wickets, but they have served their team well by being parsimonious.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir has been bowling with a lot of fire to prove a point. That he occupies second place (with 16 wickets) among top wicket-takers explains how much responsibility he shoulders in the RPS attack. Pacers Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat and Christian provide a lot of variety. RPS batting is dependent on captain Steve Smith, Dhoni, Stokes, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi. It has consistently produced 150-plus totals, except once against Delhi Daredevils, and has emerged as one of the most-feared batting units.

Having lost its home match to KKR, RPS will be determined to avenge its defeat at the Eden Gardens.