The first eliminator is finally upon us as the Kolkata Knight Riders take on the Rajasthan Royals at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The winner of the match will take on the Sunrisers Hyderabad for a spot in the final against CSK.
Rajasthan have managed to sneak their way into the top four after a host of results went their way after they managed to win seven games at the behest of individuals. KKR have peaked after being patchy throughout the season and are coming into the match with three big wins on the trot. Can they extend their unbeaten run, or will Rajasthan taste success?
Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D’Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (c), Robin Uthappa, Mitchell Johnson, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Tom Curran, Prasidh Krishna.
Where the teams stand
Rajasthan face a severely uphill task in defeating the Kolkata Knight Riders. The last time they won at the Eden Gardens, Shane Warne still captained the team. RR have relied on the brilliance of individuals like Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson to get them to victory, and somehow they have made it thus far. Tripathi has immediately found his touch since returning to the opening slot two games ago, but the middle order is a huge issue for Rajasthan. Only 29% of all runs scored have come from their middle order, the lowest of any team this season. Buttler and Stokes have both left for international duty, and they will be without the services of their best batsman so far. Much will rely on Tripathi, a disastrously out of form Rahane, and “IPL specialist” Sanju Samson, but the odds do not look favorable.
Having said that, Rajasthan have been playing this way all season, and they have repeatedly proved doubters wrong. They found a way to defeat Mumbai, with Shreyas Gopal and Tripathi making the difference. RR have found their way to the playoffs when teams like Mumbai have failed. Their bowling will be the key to their fortunes, especially given how explosive KKR can be. However, the RR attack is not one with big names, with Jofra Archer and Shreyas Gopal being their saving grace. Rajasthan have been fortunate to make it this far, and they will require something special to advance to the next round.
Fantasy Picks: Tripathi, Archer, and Gopal are the first picks from this side. Rahane and Samson are the next likeliest to perform, while Gowtham has been contributing with both, bat and ball in significant ways.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR will be pleased with the way their team has been performing in the last three games. They have amassed victories of sizeable margins in all three, and are looking good for another. Their batting has clicked, chasing down scores as their bowling remains one of the most expensive in the League. All of their batsmen have looked in fine form, and are a legitimate threat against a slightly vulnerable RR attack on a pitch conducive to batting. Playing at home will give KKR a massive boost in terms of their chances, and their record here against RR speaks for itself.
The bowling will be a concern for KKR, especially during the power-play overs. The Knight Riders have made a habit of being expensive in the first half and decisively pulling things back in the second half with the ball to give their batsmen chase-able scores. Should they be asked to bat first, KKR has the firepower to go all guns blazing. KKR have a much more settled lineup than Rajasthan, who have seen their best player, Stokes, and even Shane Warne return home. They will probably be the ones to proceed further in the tournament.
Fantasy Picks: Narine, DK, and Russell are the obvious picks from KKR. Any of their batsmen could come good on their day, but Lynn, in particular, seems to have found his groove. Kuldeep Yadav might also be a surprise performer given his performance against RR at the Eden Gardens recently.
KKR win. They have been in superb form, unlike Rajasthan, who are looking very weak without Buttler.
Will the Knight Riders maintain their superb form or could the Royals pull off an almighty upset? Let us know in the comments below.