Two teams in fine form will face off at the Eden Gardens with the spotlight falling on the biggest hitters in T20 cricket.
Both teams have three wins under their belt but Kolkata have played one game more. A win in Kolkata on Saturday will provide some wiggle room for either side as the race for playoff spots gathers speed.
The Knight Riders did score 200 against the Delhi Daredevils in Kolkata the last time but the wicket is not as flat as that score suggests. Both seamers and spinners should expect some help.
Kolkata’s spin trio of Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav should continue to bowl in the powerplays while in the batting department, the form of captain Dinesh Karthik (151 runs from five games) and Nitish Rana (162 runs) must be heart-warming.
Punjab have some wily spinners of their own, with off/leg-spinner and captain Ravi Ashwin along with Afghan teenager Mujeeb Ur Rahman providing just the right support to pace ace Andrew Tye. If Punjab opener KL Rahul continues his attacking style, the game might be out of Kolkata’s grasp soon.
PLAYERS IN FOCUS
Knight Riders all-rounder Russell has been unforgiving this IPL, hitting 19 sixes from 64 deliveries faced. That is an insane statistic and if he gets to play a handful of overs, we should be in for a treat.
If Kolkata have Russell, Punjab have another Jamaican of fine vintage in Gayle. Fresh from a typically belligerent century – the first of the season – against the top class bowling attack of Sunrisers Hyderabad, Gayle will need to recover from his exertions in time to challenge Kolkata.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Dinesh Karthik (c & wk), Andre Russell, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Shivam Mavi, Tom Curran
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Axar Patel, Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb ur Rahman
His spectacular unbeaten 104 – with 11 sixes and one four sprayed around the ground off 63 balls — helped the unfancied Punjab inflict the first defeat of the 2018 IPL on Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“A lot of people thought I’m too old. After this innings, I have nothing to prove,” the 38-year-old Gayle said after the 15-run win late Thursday.
Gayle was only selected in the third round of bidding for players by IPL teams for the 2018 season. Punjab signed him for just the $314,000 reserve price in the January auction.
He has made only two appearances so far but played a big innings each time. The opener blasted 63 off 33 balls in his side’s win over Chennai Super Kings on the weekend.
“I’m always determined, wherever I go in the world and whichever franchise I represent,” the destructive left-hander said.
Kings XI advisor Virender Sehwag was instrumental in the team’s late bid for Gayle at the auction and he can now expect talks with the batsman.
“Sehwag said in an interview: ‘If Chris wins you two games, we have our money’s worth’. I need to have a chat with him about that!” Gayle commented.
It was Gayle’s sixth IPL hundred and 21st in the 20-over format. Hyderabad had won their previous three games before the match. Punjab made 193 for three and then restricted Kane Williamson’s Sunrisers to 178 for four.
The IPL is now in its 11th season with 60 matches over 51 days. There are eight million dollars in prizes at stake — including four million for the winning team. The final takes place on May 27 in Mumbai.
Ravichandran Ashwin‘s Kings XI won the toss and elected to bat first. The hosts set a daunting target of 194 to the visitors before a fine bowling performance saw them notch up their third win in as many matches at home this season.
Here, we look at the key talking points from Kings XI’s impressive win.
GAYLESTORM HITS MOHALI ONCE AGAIN
After his explosive fifty on Kings XI debut against Chennai Super Kings, Chris Gayle was on song once again at the IS Bindra stadium in Mohali. The 38-year-old put on another exhibition of destructive batting as the boundary ropes were rendered insignificant once again.
The swashbuckling left-hander struck 11 sixes and a sole boundary as he notched up his 21st century in T20 cricket and sixth in IPL history. Gayle started circumspectly, bringing up back-to-back fifties off 39 balls before switching a gear. He was particularly punishing on Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan as he carted him for four sixes in an over.
The Jamaican’s destructive turn powered Kings XI to a huge total after they had taken the gamble of batting first and he remained unbeaten on 104 (64) as he sent down a marker to the IPL. The 11 sixes struck by him is the most so far by any batsman in the IPL this season, breaking Andre Russel’s record of 10 sixes against Chennai Super Kings.
I just wanted to prove myself and to the world to put respect to my name. But I dedicate this ton to my daughter, she will celebrate her birthday tomorrow. – Chris Gayle.
🔥 🔥 🔥
— Nikhil 🏏 (@CricCrazyNIKS) April 19, 2018
RASHID KHAN FACES THE MUSIC FOR THE FIRST TIME
The Afghan leg-spin’s prodigy’s stock is as high as ever when it comes to T20 cricket and he has established himself as the premier bowler in the format across various franchise leagues spread across the globe.
However, Thursday will be a day to forget for the 19-year-old old as he found himself on the receiving end of a ‘Gaylestorm’. The four sixes he conceded in a single over to Gayle is the most he has ever conceded in an entire T20 match while it was the most expensive over he has bowled in his IPL career.
The Afghan man finished with figures of 1-55 from his four overs, going for seven sixes and a boundary in total as he completed a dismal outing.
— Hemang Badani (@hemangkbadani) April 19, 2018
DHAWAN RETIRES HURT
When chasing a daunting target of 194, Sunrisers Hyderabad needed their in-form stalwart Shikhar Dhawan to get them off to a flyer. Those hopes were dashed within the first over of the chase itself after the Sunrisers’ opener was struck on his left elbow by a sharp in-swinger from Barinder Sran.
The left-hander shaped to cut the pacer through point but found himself cramped for room as the ball deviated sharply. The physio was quickly called as Dhawan went down clutching his elbow in pain.
That would be the end of the India opener as he was forced to retire hurt after not being able to carry on. That turned out to be a hammer blow for the visitors as they were put under pressure straight up with their most in-form batsman returning to the dressing room without opening his account.
The only man who could’ve saved SRH from humiliation tonight was Shikhar Dhawan. And there he goes, retired hurt.#KXIPvSRH
— Jaanvi 🏏 (@ThatCricketBuff) April 19, 2018
WILLIAMSON’S CAPTAIN’S INNINGS NOT ENOUGH FOR SUNRISERS
Having lost Dhawan so early into the chase, the visitors were dealt another blow when Wriddhiman Saha was dismissed cheaply in the very next over. From that point on, skipper Kane Williamson took it upon himself to anchor the innings as he kept the runs ticking in trademark fashion.
The Blackcaps skipper tried his utmost best to keep up with the steep asking-rate too as he hit two sixes and three boundaries on the way to a fine fifty.
He formed a 76-run partnership for the third-wicket with Manish Pandey that stabilized the Hyderabad chase but he ultimately fell for 54 in the pursuit of quick runs.
— ITW Sports (@ITWSports) April 19, 2018