KKR faces potent SRH with eye on playoff spot

Knight Riders needs a win to go through to the playoffs; Sunrisers is already through.

Task ahead: Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik (left) and bowling coach Heath Streak at a practice session in Hyderabad.   -  K. V. S. Giri

As a leader and batsman, Kane Williamson has been nearly perfect for Sunrisers Hyderabad. And so, before its last match against Dinesh Karthik-led Kolkata Knight Riders, the team can rest a little easy knowing it is already through to the playoffs. Knight Riders, however, has to win to seal a playoff spot.

Williamson should be keen to see confidence return to his potent bowling unit, which had a forgettable outing against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday.

Potent attack

The bowling attack had an aberration earlier, too, when Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer hammered the bowlers all over the park. It allowed other teams to gain confidence and the belief that Sunrisers bowlers can be punished, too, except leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who has remarkably remained completely unsullied. Even when AB de Villiers and Moeen Ali were treating the others with contempt, he returned with an impressive spell of 4-0-27-3. Rashid has bowled an incredible 125 dot balls so far, three behind the leader and pace bowler Umesh Yadav.

 

With left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan, Rashid forms one of the best spin combinations in this IPL.

On a familiar pitch where even a 160-plus score should be defendable, the onus will be on the pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma to serve a reminder that they mean business in the crucial phase of the championship.

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Bhuvneshwar, rested for the previous game will probably replace Basil Thampi who had a forgettable outing on Thursday, becoming the most expensive bowler in IPL history (4-0-70-0).

Prolific Williamson

Remarkably, if the bowlers’ reputation dented a bit, the batting which has been a revelation. It has been led from the front by Williamson, who scored eight half-centuries so far, and the left-right combination of Alex Hales and Shikhar Dhawan at the top. They are followed by Manish Pandey, who seems to have rediscovered his form with a competent knock against RCB after a sluggish start in the league, and a fit-again Yusuf Pathan (if he plays on Saturday). The line-up seems to have the ability to chase any score.

 

Williamson holds the key as usual, be it setting up a target or chasing one, and his early dismissal would mean real trouble for Sunrisers.

Big challenge

On the other hand, it is imperative for KKR, with 14 points from 13 matches, that the big guns like openers Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn, No. 3 Robin Uthappa fire at the top and ensure the right kind of cushion for the likes Nitish Rana, the ever-reliable and innovative Karthik, and big-hitting Andre Russell to come to the party in this big game.

KKR’s bowling attack, comprising pacers Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna, Andre Russell and spinners (chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and the experienced Sunil Narine), could face a serious test against a batting line-up with the ability which wants to fine-tune itself before the playoffs.