Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) will look to outshine one another in their bid to secure a playoff spot when the two sides clash in the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Eden Gardens here on Tuesday.
Both Kolkata and Rajasthan are on 12 points from the same number of outings and have two more matches to play before the knockouts stages commence. While KKR are placed fourth owing to slightly better net run rate (-0.189), Rajasthan are fifth (NRR -0.347).
A victory for either side on the morrow may not rubber-stamp their passage to the playoffs but would surely help in the cause going to the final round of fixtures.
KKR take on already-qualified Sunrisers Hyderabad away on May 19 while Rajasthan host Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore on the same day.
Rajasthan were slow to get off the blocks and almost put themselves out of reckoning before some individual brilliance from England wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler catapulted them back into reckoning.
Against Mumbai Indians on Sunday night, Buttler racked up his fifth consecutive IPL fifty — a feat previously managed only by Virender Sehwag — while his team picked up their third back-to-back win on the spin.
Even a week ago, Rajasthan, who won the inaugural IPL in 2008, were on the verge of elimination. But Buttler’s unbeaten 94 ensured the Ajinkya Rahane-led side not only win but also improve their net run rate by reaching the target of 169 with two overs to spare.
Matching Buttler’s exploits with the bat, West Indian bowling all-rounder Jofra Archer has been in fine form for the Jaipur-based side. In the last game, the 23-year-old removed Suryakumar for 38 and Rohit Sharma for a golden duck in successive deliveries, much like what Andre Russell did for Kolkata against Kings XI Punjab.
Rajasthan would, thus, bank heavily on Buttler and Archer to deliver the goods. Australian opener D’Arcy Short has disappointed Rajasthan, mustering just 116 runs in his seven innings this season, at an average of 16.42.
Skipper Rahane made a good-looking 37 against Mumbai and joined hands with Buttler in an important 95-run stand for the second wicket, but his form too has been a concern, managing single digit scores in his last three innings before this.
Coming to the hosts, Dinesh Karthik and Co. bounced back in style after succumbing to a 102-run defeat at the hands of Mumbai Indians.
They defeated Kings XI Punjab by 31 runs by piling up the season’s highest total of 245/6, fourth highest in IPL history. Punjab fought hard riding K.L. Rahul’s 66 but in the end it was too tall a mountain to climb.
There were many positives for KKR from that game. Karthik continued to lead from the front with a belligerent 23-ball 50 while Sunil Narine smashed a 36-ball 75.
There were important contributions from Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell as well, and end-overs cameos from Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill.
Russell was excellent with the ball too and so was M. Prasidh Krishna who grabbed two wickets.
In the head-to-head tally, each team has seen the other off seven times in 16 meetings with two tied games.
KKR: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R. Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi, Tom Curran.
RR: Heinrich Klassen, Benjamin Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat, Sanju Samson, Jofra Archer, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jos Buttler, Ajinkya Rahane (captain), D’Arcy Short, Rahul Tripathi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Zahir Khan Pakteen, Ben Laughlin, Stuart Binny, Dushmantha Chameera, Anureet Singh, Aryaman Vikram Birla, Midhun S, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Jatin Saxena, Ankit Sharma, Mahipal Lomror