Reigning IPL champions the Kolkata Knight Riders look to build on their impressive start to the Champions League T20, facing Big Bash League winners and Australia’s best hope, the Perth Scorchers. Both sides have yet to drop a match, Kolkata emerging victorious from a precarious position against Chennai before sweeping aside the Lahore Lions, while the Perth Scorchers came back from the brink of defeat in their opening clash with the Dolphins. Glitz, glamour and big name players meet a good old fashioned team ethic, generally performing better than the sum of its parts. A loss for the Scorchers will be tough to swallow, with both the mighty Chennai Super Kings and unpredictable Lahore Lions still to come. Kolkata, on the other hand, will all but book their place in the knockout stages with another victory.
Kolkata Knight Riders 4/10
Perth Scorchers 18/10
Kolkata Knight Riders
Played two, won two, with the victory over the Lahore Lions taking the Knight Riders’ winning streak to eleven consecutive matches. This is the longest ever winning streak by an IPL team, hallmarking the consistency in the Knight Riders’ ranks. Much of their success has been constructed through a strong bowling attack, with the spinners attempting to smother opposition batsmen for much of the contest, leaving a chaseable target. This blueprint didn’t go quite to plan against the Chennai Super Kings. Chawla and Narine were their usual miserly selves, restricting CSK to 157 from their twenty overs. However, KKR found themselves at 51/5 in response and needed a decent partnership. Ryan ten Doeschate and Andre Russell came to the rescue, fifties from both, with the latter’s coming from 25 balls, to take KKR over the line with an over to spare.
Kolkata missed last season’s IPL top-scorer, Robin Uthappa. He returned against the Lahore Lions, scoring 46 in a century stand with fellow opener Gautam Gambhir, making for another relatively comfortable chase. Gambhir scored 60 himself to break the back of the total and despite a late slew of wickets, Kolkata made it over the line with a cameo from Suryakumar Yadav. In the bowling department, Kuldeep Yadav proved an adequate back-up to the missing Shakib Al Hasan, completing the Knight Riders’ three prong spin suffocation from last season. If Kolkata continue in the same vein, they shouldn’t be troubled too much by the Perth Scorchers.
The Australian outfit secured the start they needed, recording an improbable win over the Dolphins in their opening match. While the Scorchers made tough work of overcoming slightly inferior opposition; indeed they were favourites to take the match prior to the start, it was the manner of their comeback that will inspire confidence in their ability. Reducing the Dolphins to 45/4, the Scorchers took their foot off the gas and allowed the South African side to muster 164 from their twenty overs. In the chase, the Scorchers battled to get away a disciplined bowling attack and despite keeping wickets in hand, were left needing twelve from the final two deliveries. Mitchell March, fast becoming a game-changer if allowed to settle, was able to capitalise on Frylinck’s loss of nerve and bludgeon successive sixes to take his side over the line.
Essentially, the Scorchers got out of jail. Failing to finish off the Dolphins when they had the chance left them with more than they would have liked to chase. Additionally, Frylinck’s over, up until the final two deliveries, had been on point. If the burly Dolphins seamer had landed another yorker, it would have been game over for the Scorchers. They will need a marked improvement here if they hope to get anything from this fixture. The Kolkata Knight Riders are unlikely to be as forgiving should the Scorchers miss their line, and much less likely to fluff the death overs with their tested and disciplined unit.
Hyderabad has been a kind ground to the Kolkata Knight Riders, having beaten home side Sunrisers in the IPL and now following up with back-to-back victories in the Champions League T20. Expect a relatively high-scoring affair, with minimum at the ground being 150 if a side wants to compete. There is a 50% chance of scattered thundershowers, let’s hope it leaves the match unaffected.
VERDICT: Kolkata Knight Riders 4/10
Despite the short price, it is worth backing Kolkata to build on their consistent run of form. It’s tough to see how the Scorchers expect to deal with the sheer quantity of spin they will be forced to navigate and coupled with a somewhat fragile and inexperienced bowling line-up, I see this one going the way of the IPL giants.
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