IPL 2019: David Warner's return in the spotlight as Kolkata Knight Riders welcome Sunrisers Hyderabad

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David Warner is back. Image - @IPL/Twitter.

The first of Sunday’s double-header in the 2019 Indian Premier League sees Kolkata Knight Riders square off against last season’s runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Eden Gardens.

Two-time champions Kolkata will want to exact revenge for the loss in the second Qualifier to Hyderabad in 2018 and they have a fairly settled core squad capable of doing so.

Led by Dinesh Karthik, the Knight Riders will once again bank on some Caribbean magic in IPL 2019 with the presence of their two West Indies all-rounders Sunil Narine and Andre Russell.

Both the Kolkata stalwarts were injury doubts coming into the IPL but have shown no signs of trouble in training so far. Narine is the most economical bowler in IPL history with the mystery spinner picking up his 98 wickets while only conceding 6.54 runs an over.

To go with his outstanding bowling abilities, Narine has also added some big shots to his repertoire and emerged as a lethal pinch-hitter at the top of the innings.

Russell, meanwhile, has time and time again turned match-winner for Kolkata with both bat and ball. The Windies all-rounder’s IPL strike-rate is hovering over 177 after 50 matches while he has also smashed a total of 68 sixes.

While Chris Lynn and Narine will be expected to provide fireworks at the top of the batting order, young Shubman Gill will be the man to watch for Kolkata with the youngster poised to have a big season ahead of him.

Eden Gardens has traditionally favoured spinners in the IPL over the years and Kolkata have an impressive spin arsenal at their disposal containing the likes of Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla.

While Kolkata’s spin contingent is strong, Sunrisers are fairly lethal in that department as well with Afghanistan sensation Rashid Khan leading the line. The leg-spinner has already picked up 38 wickets in his two seasons in the IPL which have come at an economy-rate of just 6.68 runs an over.

Rashid is likely to be complimented in the spin department by his Afghanistan compatriot Mohammad Nabi who had some excellent displays against Ireland recently.

However, all eyes will be on David Warner on Sunday with the Australian batsman set to make his IPL return after a one-year absence. With the ball-tampering saga now behind him, Warner will be hoping to let his bat do all the talking in the 2019 edition.

IPL’s all-time leading overseas run-scorer Warner will need to come to the party on Sunday given that Kane Williamson is set to miss the tie due to a shoulder injury.

The Kiwi stalwart has been retained as the team’s skipper for the 2019 campaign despite Warner’s return to the squad and his absence will be felt at the Eden Gardens given his impressive 2018 showings where he aggregated 735 runs at an average greater than 52.

With Williamson likely to be out of Sunday’s clash, vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to don the skipper’s cap and the India man will be crucial for the Sunrisers with his new-ball abilities.

One player to watch out for Sunrisers will be Jonny Bairstow with the explosive England opener set to make his IPL debut.

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While Williamson is a major doubt for the clash, Sunrisers will also have to make do without the services of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan who is still recovering from a finger injury.

For Kolkata, South Africa pacer Anrich Nortje has already been ruled out of the IPL due to a shoulder injury.

LIKELY XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Robin Uthappa, Nitsh Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Andre Russell, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Sandeep Warrior, Harry Gurney.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (c), Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed.

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