Acing the conditions key as DC, KKR prepare for final Sharjah act

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safari
12 Oct 2021 | 05:55 PM
authorBastab K Parida

Acing the conditions key as DC, KKR prepare for final Sharjah act

With so many strengths to rely on, KKR and DC will not be leaving an inch to another in Sharjah

“Incredible Premier League” is how the host broadcasters often brand the IPL in the last few years. Quite rightly so, the IPL has raised the bar consistently to ensure the standard is met and the teams have made some solid U-turns to keep the tournament’s interest level at a peak. 

Ask KKR fans, they would tell you the joy and ecstasy they have felt in the last few days with their side turning around the fortune and making it to the playoffs after finding themselves at the seventh position at the halfway mark. Eoin Morgan’s men are just two wins away from registering their third IPL title and that will be a miracle.

If the immaculate timing with which KKR have gone about their task needs to be applauded, there is no lackluster show from their Qualifier opponents either. For all their lacunae with the bat, Delhi is still one of the most feared sides in the tournament with Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan, and Kagiso Rabada forming a lethal troika with the ball. With so many strengths to rely on, KKR and DC will not be leaving an inch to another in Sharjah which is the slowest and most sluggish wicket in the competition. 

Acing the match-up game?

One of Shubman Gill’s strengths in white-ball cricket is his ability to play spin bowling but delving deeper, there is a pattern. Since IPL 2020, Gill has been dismissed by spinners 10 times, all those have been against wrist spinners. He has never been dismissed to finger spin so far in his IPL career and has scored 199 runs, which is in fact, the most runs scored by a player before his first dismissal to a finger spinner in the tournament. While Pant would want to hide Ashwin from such a situation, the tricky part is how he would ace the match-up game against Nitish Rana.

While it theoretically makes sense to use an off-spinner against Nitish Rana first-up, Rana’s case is much different as he has thrashed off-spinners (SR of 191 since IPL 2019) as compared to leg-spinners (SR of 121) and left-arm spinners (SR of 143). Since IPL 2019, among 25 batters to have scored 75+ runs against off-spinners, Rana’s SR of 191 is the highest. Being a left-hander to have the highest SR against off-spinner is something extraordinary. Not only that, he has hit the most sixes (13) against off-spinners in IPL since 2019. How the cat and mouse game transpires on the sluggish Sharjah wicket will dictate a lot of terms. 

Ferguson and Nortje hold the key

High pace has always been a daunting proposition in the IPL and the likes of Anrich Nortje and Lockie Ferguson have leveraged on that massively. The duo will be key to their respective team’s fortunes. Ferguson has played the least number of matches among bowlers have taken 10+ wickets for KKR since IPL 2020, and he also has the best bowling average among all those bowlers and has the best economy among all KKR pacers in this time period.

He not only picks wickets but also goes for fewer runs than many other bowlers in the middle overs and at the death. Among 36 pacers to have bowled a minimum of 10 overs at the death, Ferguson and Bumrah are the only pacers to concede at less than 8 RPO since IPL 2020. That holds KKR in good stead but they would be wary of Anrich Nortje who has been the most potent bowler for the team from the national capital.

Nortje has been Delhi’s designated Powerplay bowler as half of his overs have come in the phase and living true to the expectations, he has taken six wickets with the new ball. Though most of his wickets have come in Powerplay, he has been economical throughout the innings. With an economy of 5.2 in Powerplay and 6.9 in death overs, the Saffer is the most economical bowler in both phases and is also the only bowler to concede at less than run-a-ball in this IPL. That is a massive multiplier for the Rishabh Pant-led side. 

Will Dhawan step up?

In the first half of the tournament, Shikhar Dhawan was Delhi’s rockstar performer, having amassed 380 runs at 54.29 and his strike rate of 134.3 also added to his consistency. However, since the tournament’s resumption in UAE, his run-scoring rate has somehow taken a dip with him scoring at 24.43 and the strike rate has gone down to 114.8. 

In the second half, five of Dhawan’s seven dismissals have come against the pacers and he averages just 24. Pacers have targeted by keeping their length a bit on the shorter side as he is too good against the deliveries that are full. Whenever they pull their length back, he has been dismissed thrice at an average of 12.3 and an SR of 77. Ferguson might wish to target that aspect of his batting on Wednesday before spinners come to the party. 

Probable XIs:

Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy

Delhi Capitals: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Shreyas Iyer, Shimron Hetmyer, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Tom Curran, Avesh Khan, Anrich Nortje

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Kolkata Knight Riders vs Delhi CapitalsIndian Premier League, 2021Delhi CapitalsKolkata Knight RidersShikhar DhawanPrithvi ShawAnrich NortjeLockie FergusonNitish RanaShubman Gill

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