Supergiants look to halt Knight Riders' surge

Match facts

Sunday, April 24, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)

Play 03:47

Cullinan: Opportunity for KKR to show their batting depth

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Kolkata Knight Riders can chase. They can also become the first team to notch four wins in IPL 2016. A four-day break between travels was spent by mixing work with fun. On Friday evening, the squad attended a special screening of their co-owner Shah Rukh Khan’s latest release ‘Fan’.

The only fun MS Dhoni’s Rising Pune Supergiants have had was at the tournament opener, when they marched to a nine-wicket win over defending champions Mumbai Indians. Since then, they have failed to defend twice. On Friday, they stumbled to their third loss, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, even though the lower-order pairing of Thisara Perera and Rajat Bhatia pushed for a late dash.

With Kevin Pietersen’s calf injury, Steven Smith would need to step up in the middle overs, where Supergiants have slowed down despite solid starts from Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis.

On the other hand, Knight Riders’ opening combination of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa has set up all three wins so far. If the Supergiants bowlers can get past Gambhir and Uthappa, they can test the mettle of Knight Riders’ middle and lower order. But do Supergiants have the right combinations and the right mindset? Can captain MS Dhoni produce that out of his players?

This contest is about a team in the ascendancy against a team still finding its footing. The only question for Knight Riders is how can they keep improving? The questions for Dhoni’s Supergiants are piling up by the day.

Form guide

Rising Pune Supergiants LLLW (most recent matches first)
Kolkata Knight Riders WWLW

In the spotlight

Being the lead fast bowler, Ishant Sharma needs to man the frontline but he has failed so far. In this IPL, his economy rate in Powerplays is 8.36, the second-worst among all who have bowled five or more overs. In the death overs, Ishant’s figures are mournful: even though he has bowled just three overs, he has been caned for 48 runs. Ishant’s overall economy of 9.86 is the second-worst among 27 bowlers who have bowled 10 or more overs so till Friday.

Team news

Dhoni has said that Pietersen’s injury allows him the option of playing one of Mitchell Marsh or Albie Morkel. Marsh, who played for Pune Warriors, might be preferred. In swinging conditions, Dhoni may even be tempted to play Irfan Pathan or RP Singh ahead of the legspinner M Ashwin. RP Singh could even replace the out-of-form Ishant.

Rising Pune Supergiants (probable): 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Steven Smith, 4 MS Dhoni (cast & wk), 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Rajat Bhatia, 8 R Ashwin, 9 M Ashwin/Irfan Pathan, 10 Ankit Sharma, 11 Ishant Sharma/RP Singh

Manish Pandey has been ruled out for a few matches with chicken pox. Suryakumar Yadav may be be promoted to No. 3.

Kolkata Knight Riders (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Morne Morkel

Pitch and conditions

If it is the same pitch as Friday, the ball could hold up in the surface, but will it benefit the slower bowlers?

Stats and trivia

  • Gambhir and Uthappa have scored 66.79% of Knight Riders’s runs so far in the tournament. The pair has three fifty-plus partnerships in their three wins
  • Knight Riders have the best averages so far in the IPL. Their batting average is 47.75 while their bowling average is 19.51

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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