Kings, Knight Riders face off in battle of power-hitters


Knight Riders have Russell’s fitness to worry about, while Kings get a boost with Rabada’s availability

Big picture

A new-look Punjab Kings side, dripping with power and depth, hunted down 206 against Royal Challengers Bangalore to kick off their season in grand style. They now run into Kolkata Knight Riders, who play with similar attacking intent and freedom.
The result didn’t go in Knight Riders’ way on Wednesday, but they stayed true to their playbook, hitting more boundaries than Royal Challengers.
An intriguing subplot to look forward to on Friday is Andre Russell, if he’s fit enough, vs Odean Smith. Russell is still the gold standard of T20 cricket while Smith is the latest big-hitting allrounder from the Caribbean. Smith has modelled his game on Russell and he recently won the T10 league with his idol at Deccan Gladiators in Abu Dhabi. In the last IPL, Smith even worked with Russell as a net bowler at Knight Riders. IPL 2022, however, has pitted them against each other.

In the news

After Wednesday’s game, where Russell bowled only three overs, Knight Riders head coach Brendon McCullum said that the allrounder’s shoulder was sore after he dived near the boundary. If Russell doesn’t recover in time, Knight Riders could instead call up Mohammad Nabi or Chamika Karunaratne.

South Africa quick Kagiso Rabada is out of quarantine and trained with the Kings after having participated in the ODI series at home against Bangladesh. Jonny Bairstow, however, is unavailable for Kings’ second game as he is yet to complete quarantine upon arrival from the Caribbean.

Likely XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Venkatesh Iyer, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Sam Billings, 6 Sheldon Jackson (wk), 7 Andre Russell/Chamika Karunaratne/Mohammad Nabi, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Varun Chakravarthy

Punjab Kings: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Mayank Agarwal (capt), 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa (wk), 4 Liam Livingstone, 5 Raj Bawa, 6 M Shahrukh Khan, 7 Odean Smith, 8 Harpreet Brar, 9 Arshdeep Singh, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Rahul Chahar

Strategy punt

Smith missed his lengths at the death on IPL debut, but there is a case for Kings to give him another go during this phase and hold him back for Russell. Smith has bowled 13 balls to Russell in T20 cricket, keeping him to a mere eight runs while getting him out twice in three innings.

Stats that matter

  • Russell has the wood over Rabada in T20s, taking him for 79 runs off 39 balls at a strike rate of over 200 while being dismissed just once.
  • Umesh Yadav has 49 wickets in the powerplay in the IPL at an economy rate of 7.60. Only Bhuvneshwar Kumar (51), Sandeep Sharma (52) and Zaheer Khan (52) have picked up more wickets than Umesh in the first six overs.
  • Sunil Narine has a particularly strong record against Kings, having picked up 31 wickets in 21 games at an average of 18.22 and economy rate of seven.
  • Harpreet Brar was expensive in Kings’ opening game, but he could still be a decent option against Knight Riders’ right-hander heavy batting line-up. The left-arm fingerspinner’s economy rate of 6.04 in IPL 2021 was the best among bowlers who had bowled more than ten overs last season.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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