(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Sat 14 May 2022, 1:33 AM
Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad have flattered to deceive this season. The outcome of tonight's match will almost certainly eliminate the loser while the winner gets a lifeline.
Looking back, neither team should have been in such a tight situation. KKR started off with three handsome wins out of their first four matches before losing focus and slumping to five defeats in a row which brought them tumbling down to the bottom of the points table.
Two wins in their last three matches have rescued the former champions from a premature exit, but they are skating on thin ice.
SRH, in contrast, had a dismal start to the tournament, then struck a purple patch which saw them win five matches on the trot, taking them into the upper echelons of the points table. Just as dramatically, SRH have since lost four matches in succession and they are currently languishing at number six.
In fact, both these teams are level on 10 points each currently, with KKR placed a position lower (no. seven) only because of a poorer Net Run Rate.
How do these teams square up for tonight's crucial match?
The current form suggested the momentum was with KKR. But pace ace Pat Cummins returning home early because of a hip injury reduces the advantage considerably.
After the spate of defeats, there had been an upswing in KKR's performance. Victory over Mumbai Indians in their last match was particularly significant considering they were defending 165, not a daunting score going by the pattern this season.
KKR psychologically survived Jasprit Bumrah's devastating bowling (5-10) to turn the tables on the five-times champions, bowling them out for 113. The key figure in this win was Cummins who had hit a trough soon after joining the tournament and had even been dropped for a few matches.
Without Cummins, there will be greater responsibility on Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav and Andre Russell to deliver wickets since the other bowlers haven't been as successful.
Sunil Narine, while parsimonious, hasn't been as threatening. Venkatesh Iyer's struck some form as a batsman but has been below par as a bowler. The biggest disappointment has been Varun Chakravarthy who had to be dropped, failing to pick up wickets or control runs.
With a depleted bowling attack, KKR's batsmen, who have been floundering for the better part of six weeks, must raise the bar considerably for their team to win.
Without having as many weaknesses, SRH have nonetheless been the more vulnerable team apart from the period when they had a five-match winning surge. The bowling looked far sharper than KKR's (though Washington Sundar not being available consistently has been a problem), and the batting has shown more flair and substance when it got going.
In fact, once SRH settled down after the early defeats, they appeared for a while the best team in the tournament. The pace attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Marco Jansen and Umran Malik became the talk of the tournament and the bane of opposing teams.
What unsettled SRH after the dramatic rise is a mystery. The team hasn't been able to win even from strong positions, as in the match against Gujarat Titans where they conceded 22 runs in the last over to Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan.
That the side have fine resources in batting (Abhishek Sharma, Williamson, Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram, Nicholas Pooran) and bowling makes them stronger on paper than KKR. It's the mental hurdle that they have to overcome.
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