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Eden Gardens and Knight Riders brace for a 'Royal Challenge'

Last updated on 05 Apr 2023 | 11:34 AM
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Eden Gardens and Knight Riders brace for a 'Royal Challenge'

After a four-year-long wait, Kolkata is all set to witness their beloved team on home turf as a stern Challenger test awaits them

April 28, 2019: Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians enthralled the passionate fans in the City of Joy with a high-scoring thriller at the Eden Gardens, with the home team recording a 34-run win. 

As Piyush Chawla bowled the final delivery of the innings to Barinder Sran to give the Knight Riders a win after six long games, who would have thought that it would be the last time the boys and Purple and Gold would play at the iconic Eden Gardens. 

The unprecedented chaos resulted in the Indian Premier League being staged in one city or in the United Arab Emirates, but to the delight of all the fans, it is back to the home and away format, with the Eden Gardens, set to the first game of the season. 

And it is the big one, as the Knight Riders host the Royal Challengers Bangalore on a sultry evening, aiming to gain vital two points from this high-voltage clash. 

The Knight Riders endured a tough start to the season as they lost their regular skipper, Shreyas Iyer, to a lower-back injury which derailed their plans heading into the mega event. With Shakib Al Hasan also not unavailable, they have roped in Jason Roy, who provides them with an extra batting option. 

While they named Nitish Rana as their interim skipper, the southpaw was not in the best of forms with the bat in the last season and failed to inspire the team in the opening clash against the Punjab Kings. 

A seven-run loss away from home and the Knight Riders return to familiar territory as they lock horns against an in-form Royal Challengers outfit that dismantled the Mumbai Indians at home by eight wickets. 

While the two sides possess plenty of firepower, it will be interesting to witness their tactics heading into this crucial clash at the iconic stadium. 

Things to watch out for

Can the inexperienced batting unit of the Knights stand up?

One of the talking points in this clash is the experience of the top order on the opposite ends of the spectrum, with Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis at one end and Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Mandeep Singh for the home team. 

With a new-look opening combination and the likes of Anukul Roy and Venkatesh Iyer in the top four, the batting unit of the Knight Riders is inexperienced, to say the least, and the onus of the side will rely heavily on Nitish Rana and Andre Russell to guide the batting unit in the middle overs. 

Top-ley blow for the Challengers

While batting is an area of concern for the Knight Riders, the Royal Challengers suffered a massive blow in their near-clinical win against the Mumbai Indians as Reece Topley dislocated his shoulder and will most likely miss out for a lengthy period. 

The left-arm seamer scalped the prized wicket of Cameron Green in his two-over spell before walking off the field due to an unfortunate injury. The 29-year-old is an integral part of the bowling unit, and it will be interesting to see how Faf du Plessis and the team management find a way to fill the massive void left by the speedster. 

The Bangalore unit do have an option of David Willey coming into the playing XI but his exploits in the tournament over the years have been dismal as he has managed to pick only three wickets in seven innings at an average of 55.7 and an economy rate of eight. 

All eyes will be on the new ball attack of Bangalore in this clash and the player who partners Mohammed Siraj at the other end. 

Pitch & conditions

The wicket at Eden Gardens is known to be on the sluggish side, and the average score will be around the 157-run mark, and the average winning score is around 174 runs. 

In the last T20I game held at this venue, India locked horns against Sri Lanka in February 2022, and the two sides scored over 165 runs, with the Men in Blue recording a 17-run win. 

The spinners are set to play a significant role, and the Knight Riders would be hoping for their two mystery spinners, Sunil Narine and Varun Chakaravarthy to weave their magic and make this ground their fortress. 

Tactical nous

Virat Kohli vs spinners

Over a decade of playing at the highest level, one of the chinks in the armour of Virat Kohli has been his inability to attack the spinners from the get-go. 

The right-handed batter is a slow starter against the tweakers and since the last edition, he has scored 107 runs in 11 innings at an average of 25.6 and a strike rate of 108.1, the lowest among batters with a minimum of 100 runs against spin. 

To add misery to Bangalore's woes, his skipper is on the list with 171 runs in 11 innings at an average of 42.75 and a strike rate of 126.7. While the South African batter has not been dismissed much by spinners, his low strike rate and Kohli's spin trouble could hamper Bangalore's charge in the powerplay against the mystery spinners.

Onus on Umesh Yadav, yet again!

In the last game against the Punjab Kings, when the top-order of the home team were going all guns blazing, the only bright spot for the Knight Riders was the performance of Umesh Yadav

The right-arm seamer is known to be erratic in his line and length but has improved his game in the shortest format by leaps and bounds in the last 18 months. 

The 35-year-old conceded only 27 runs and picked the wicket of Bhanuka Rajapaksa to dent Punjab's charge in the middle overs. 

Umesh has been one of the standout performers for the team since his return to the Knight Riders' set-up, and his record against Glenn Maxwell would prompt Rana to unleash him as soon as he walks out to bat. 

The attacking batter has been dismissed thrice in five innings and averages 5.7 against the speedster, and it will be one of the match-ups to watch out for in this game. 

Team combination

Despite the defeat against the Punjab Kings, the Knight Riders will back the same playing XI for this clash against the Royal Challengers, with Venkatesh Iyer most likely to come in as the impact substitute. 

Kolkata Knight Riders: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Mandeep Singh, Nitish Rana (Captain), Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Shardul Thakur, Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Varun Chakaravarthy

The Challengers have a settled playing XI, and the only swap would most likely be David Willey coming in place for injured Topley. 

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (Captain), Virat Kohli, Michael Bracewell, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel, David Willey, Karn Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Akash Deep

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