The spotlight will be well and truly on Kolkata Knight Riders and their batting order as they look to stop their alarming slide in IPL 21019 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday.
Andre Russell has been the undisputed MVP of this season with his incredible hitting, despite a hurt wrist and wonky knees, holding a disjointed KKR together. The Knight Riders have now lost four matches in a row and they only have themselves to blame as their batting revolves mainly around Russell and they aren’t utilising him properly.
Russell at No4?
After his unforgiving 65 off 25 balls against RCB took Kolkata to within 10 runs of the target of 214, Russell said he would like to bat higher up the order.
In the game against RCB, Robin Uthappa crawled to nine off 20 balls when the asking rate was way beyond 10 an over. It was a monumental waste of deliveries given the final margin of result and it is high time Russell gets to bat more overs.
Nitish Rana gave Russell excellent support with 85 off 46 balls. Which means there is a case for Russell to bat at No 4 instead of No6 and Uthappa to bat lower down or even be replaced as he has made just one fifty in the tournament.
Sunrisers on the rise
Sunrisers Hyderabad were starting to sink with three successive defeats. The clash against Chennai Super Kings could have knocked them down for good but against the table toppers, Sunrisers came out with their A game and defeated CSK by six wickets with star leg-spinner Rashid Khan (2-17) and talismanic opener David Warner (50 off 25 balls) getting the job done.
That’s the thing with Hyderabad – when players like Rashid, Warner and Jonny Bairstow get going, they take the team past the finish line.
It is the final week or so for English and Australian players to do their thing before they are asked to join their respective teams for World Cup preparations. So both Warner and Bairstow will be keen to leave the team in the best condition possible.
SRH: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Vijay Shankar, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed
KKR: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Harry Gurney, Prasidh Krishna
While a win can take Mumbai over CSK to the top of the standings, it will also help avenge their four-wicket loss to the same opponents at the Wankhede stadium exactly a week ago.
For Rajasthan, a win is imperative if they are to have any chance of making the IPL play-offs after registering just two victories in eight games previously.
Will Mumbai climb above Chennai in the table or will the Royals do the double over Rohit Sharma and his men? Find out by following the ball-by-ball action from Jaipur below.
The loss was the fourth straight one for KKR in the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign and it left Dinesh Karthik’s men languishing in sixth spot in the table.
Chasing a daunting 214 for victory, Kolkata gave Bangalore a royal scare with Russell and Nitish Rana almost pulling off an improbable chase for the hosts at the Eden Gardens.
Russell struck 65 runs from just 25 deliveries with the help of nine sixes and two boundaries while Rana remained unbeaten on 85 (46) but the late arrival to the crease of the former played its part in KKR falling just short.
The Windies all-rounder only arrived at the crease at the end of the 12th over when Robin Uthappa became the fourth Kolkata wicket to fall. By the time Russell walked in to bat, the required rate for the hosts had already started shot up above 15 runs an over and that proved to be too big a mountain for even him to climb.
"Well done, @NitishRana_27. We need to regroup as a team, and carry the momentum from the partnership two of us had today" 🗣️@Russell12A, at the post-match press conference.🎙️#KKRvRCB #KKRHaiTaiyaar pic.twitter.com/SWyLYKqQa7— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) April 20, 2019
“Look, we were chasing 214 runs and weren’t in the best state when I went out to bat,” the KKR star man said after the narrow loss.
“When Nitish asked what I thought, I said ‘I bat one way – and that’s positive.’ But to go out there and chasing 14-15 per over, it’s not the best way you want to start as a batsman.
“I’m used to these situations, but why I say it’s a sweet and sour feeling is because we need to learn from this, as a team. We need to learn that we can get 214. And to lose by 10 runs, well, we were just two hits away.”
When asked if he should be batting higher up the order at No4, Russell replied, “I believe that.”
“Honestly, you have to sometimes be flexible as a team. When you look at the make-up of our team, I don’t mind going to bat at No4,” he added.
Russell and KKR will hope to reignite their campaign on Sunday when they take on last season’s runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad in an away clash.