As the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League reaches its business end and the race for the top 4 hots up, Match 39 of IPL 2020 will be key for both Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Both teams are coming into the match in Abu Dhabi on the back of wins and will be keen to carry on the momentum. Before delving into more details surrounding the players, here's where RCB and KKR currently stand on the points and what these 2 points could mean to either side.
Bangalore - Played 9 | Won 6 | Lost 3 | Points 12 | Position on table: 3
Two points for Bangalore will see them move to 14 alongside current table-toppers Delhi Capitals. But more importantly, it will see them move that much close to securing a berth in the playoffs. With their remaining four matches after this being against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi, Bangalore will want to reach a fairly secure position well in advance.
Kolkata - Played 9 | Won 5 | Lost 4 | Points 10 | Position on table: 4
This is a much more important encounter for Kolkata. They are on 10 points currently, are coming into this match on the back a nail-biting Super Over win over Hyderabad, and a amidst a captaincy shift, will want to prove a point. Moreover, a win here will take them to 12 points, further away from the clutter of the bottom 4. They have a two-point advantage over Rajasthan and are four points clear of Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab. A win here will take them away from the chasing pack.
It's not going to be easy for Kolkata though. The last time these two sides met, Bangalore gave them a thorough 82-run mauling in Sharjah with AB de Villiers going ballistic smashing a 33-ball 73. Considering the form de Villiers is in, Kolkata will have to be really careful going into this encounter.
Kolkata bank on Abu Dhabi experience to keep them in contention
The experience of playing a chunk of their games in Abu Dhabi is bound to give some sort of an advantage to Kolkata. They have so far played six of their nine matches at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, out of which they have won four. Bangalore have played at Abu Dhabi just once - against Rajasthan Royals - an encounter that they won. Abu Dhabi has favoured pacers much more than spinners so far this tournament and Pat Cummins and Lockie Ferguson could come into play here. Ferguson, in particular, comes into this match on the back of a splendid first IPL 2020 outing. He was the main man for Kolkata in the game against SRH where he picked three wickets in the main match and then two again in the Super Over. Morgan could unleash the Kiwi pacer against Kohli and de Villiers in the middle and death overs.
The Morris factor
Chris Morris missed Bangalore’s first five matches of the tournament and looks like he is keen to make up for lost time. In just four matches he has already become Bangalore’s second-highest wicket-taker with 9 wickets to his name. What stands out here though is his economy rate of just 5.3, the best in the tournament so far (minimum 3 matches). Morris has almost single-handedly sorted Bangalore’s death bowling issues while adding the much-needed balance to the side.
Another reason why Kolkata need to be doubly wary of Morris is his record against them. Here’s how Morris has fared against 4 out of the top 6 Kolkata batsmen in T20s (from the team that played KKR’s last game).
V Rahul Tripathi – Inns 2 | Runs 21 | Balls 14 | Dismissals 1 | Average 21
V Nitish Rana – Inns 3 | Runs 28 | Balls 14 | Dismissals 2 | Average 14
V Dinesh Karthik – Inns 10 | Runs 43 | Balls 33 | Dismissals 4 | Average 10.75
V Andre Russell – Inns 6 | Runs 34 | Balls 23 | Dismissals 3 | Average 11.33
Certainly, some very good numbers especially when the dismissals column is taken into consideration. Morris was excellent against Kolkata when the two sides met earlier in the tournament and will want to keep that momentum going.
RCB’s middle-overs muddle
While Bangalore are and always have been batting heavy, this season they have seriously been found wanting in the middle overs. Between overs 7-15, Bangalore have scored at a run rate of only 7, by far the worst of all sides. They have hit the least number of 4s (23) and least numbers of 6s (16) of all teams in the middle phase.
This is particularly intriguing because it’s not as if Bangalore have lost wickets upfront. Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch have consistently given good starts all through the tournament, an average partnership of 39.9 at a strike of 135, bearing strong testimony to the above statement. But for some reason Kohli & Co. have seemed to shut shop in the middle overs. This despite plenty of big hitters to follow.
This is one area where Kolkata can really strangle Bangalore. In IPL 2020, they have been the best bowling side between overs 7-15 going at an economy rate of just 7.5.
On at least three occasions, Bangalore have needed de Villiers’ brilliance to bail them out in the death overs. If Kolkata can get Kohli and de Villiers out early, they could really be in business here.
What is exactly going on with Andre Russell?
It really was a sorry sight to see Andre Russell limber along with what was a four-step run-up trying to help Kolkata defend 18 runs. He couldn’t exactly do that but did take the game to a Super Over which KKR eventually won. Russell has been Kolkata’s go-to man in the IPL for years now, but this season he seems to be really off. He has so far scored just 92 runs in 9 matches averaging 11.5 and has picked 6 wickets at 29.2. Russell’s fitness has been a major concern and it could suit both himself and Kolkata better if he is given a rest. In that case, Kolkata could go for Sunil Narine or Chris Green in the side.
Kolkata: Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (c), Andre Russell/Sunil Narine, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy
Bangalore: Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (wk), Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Washington Sundar, Chris Morris, Shahbaz Ahmed, Isuru Udana, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal