Kolkata Knight Riders would like to continue their winning run against Sunrisers Hyderabad when they take on David Warner's men at Delhi on Wednesday. Although Sunrisers finished ahead of Kolkata in the points table, KKR will be the more confident of the two sides as they have won both the previous contests against the opposition they will be taking on, on Wednesday. Kolkata beat Sunrisers by eight wickets the first time the two teams met, and then by 22-runs in what was a do-or-die clash for Gautam Gambhir's men. That can be easily forgotten if Hyderabad manage to get the better of Kolkata on Wednesday.
Gautam Gambhir has been leading from the front for Kolkata with the bat. While a lot of others have been selected for the upcoming India tours of West Indies and Zimbabwe, based on their IPL efforts, the former India opener has been ignored. That will be one more reason for him to make a statement. With 473 runs, including five fifties, Gambhir has given the team some very good starts although he has only scored half as many as Virat Kohli. Gambhir apart, the other opener Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan have been the form batsmen in the tournament, who may need to stand up on the big day.
The big worry for Kolkata going into the eliminator will be whether West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell plays. The big-match player has missed the last two matches due to injury, and Kolkata would be desperate for him to be fit for Wednesday's tie. In the bowling, Kolkata's spin woes were alleviated to an extent as both Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav came to the party against Sunrisers in the previous match. Before that, they weren't quite at their best. Kolkata have been in such situations before, and thus will be keen to bring their experience into play.
Although Sunrisers finished third in the points table, they do not go into the eliminator with the winning momentum. In their last two league matches, they went down to Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata, which saw them slipping down from the top of the points table. Their confidence would have taken a dip from the recent beatings without doubt, but Sunrisers would know that they are capable of returning to winning ways. Unlike Kolkata, Sunrisers have never made it to the summit clash of the IPL. That should serve as another source of motivation for them.
Like Kolkata, Sunrisers also have been led from the front from their captain David and Warner. In fact, in the early part of the tournament, he was singlehandedly carrying the team on his shoulders. It was only later that his opener partner Shikhar Dhawan joined the party, and has been doing an excellent job since. The team is still looking for runs from Yuvraj Singh and Eoin Morgan though. In the bowling, there is no Ashish Nehra in the team, and so there will be additional pressure on Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They have the men who can make the difference, but can they stand up on the big day.
--By A Cricket Analyst