KKR vs RCB – IPL 2021 – Kolkata Knight Riders look to fix opening issues – Royal Challengers face spin questions | Cricket

KKR vs RCB - IPL 2021 - Kolkata Knight Riders look to fix opening issues - Royal Challengers face spin questions | Cricket

Virat Kohli and Eoin Morgan at the toss © BCCI/IPL

Big picture

Ten days ago, Virat Kohli said he believed his team could chase anything. And they backed him up with a 10-wicket victory over the Rajasthan Royals. Since then, however, a pair of left-arm spinners have proven boasts like that tend to come back and bite people in the…

Funnily enough, Ravindra Jadeja and Harpreet Brar’s performances may well have come at a good time for Royal Challengers Bangalore. A little reality check now – when they still hold their playoff chances well within their hands – isn’t a bad thing.

So, spin has been useful in curbing this big-hitting line-up. They can fix that by being a little more cautious, at least during the first few balls. Splightning has struck twice already. No way is it doing a (double) encore. Then again, the Royal Challengers are going up against Sunil Narine.

In the news

Out of all the opening partnerships that have at least put up an aggregate of 25 runs this season, Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill have the second-slowest strike rate (119.33). This has set the Kolkata Knight Riders back, preventing them from getting any kind of natural flow to their innings. Coach Brendon McCullum made it very clear after their last loss that he wants more aggression at the top. Perhaps there might be a change up there as well.

The Royal Challengers have offered financial support to India’s fight against the second Covid-19 wave and are set to auction off special blue jerseys that they will wear in an upcoming match to raise funds to help India battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 Rajat Patidar, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Kyle Jamieson, 7 Daniel Sams, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Rahul Tripathi, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Nitish Rana, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Andre Russell, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Pat Cummins, 8 Gurkeerat Singh/Sheldon Jackson, 9 Shivam Mavi/Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Prasidh Krishna

Strategy punt

  • Knight Riders have a readymade powerplay specialist in their line-up stuck at No. 3. Rahul Tripathi has often come in having to inject momentum into a failing innings and he has shown he is up for it – even if he hasn’t dominated a game yet. Giving him a free reign up top could very well help solve the biggest problem that has resulted in this talented, well-balanced team languishing near the bottom of the table.
  • And why not send Narine out as his partner? He’s already taken the Royal Challengers apart once – a 15-ball fifty in 2017 that powered them to a score of 100 within the first six overs. With the opposition not really having an out-and-out fast bowler who can go short and bully Narine, he is a batting asset waiting to be unleashed. At least in this match.

Stats that matter

  • AB de Villiers averages 15.33 against Narine. Out of everyone he has faced in the IPL (minimum 30 balls) only four others take his wicket for fewer runs. All of them are spinners. The plan is simple. Take the pace off. Then pray.
  • Eoin Morgan in the IPL: five fifties in 66 innings at a strike rate of 125. But he is a World Cup winner and so he deserves a little leeway. The only thing is, he won the 50-overs version, and this is a 20-overs tournament, where he is blocking off one of only four overseas spots. So, the Knight Riders can’t play Tim Seifert, who is a 360-degree opener, or Ben Cutting, whose sixes directly led to an IPL championship.
  • The Royal Challengers have the fastest-scoring opening partnership of this IPL. Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal have been ticking along at a run rate of 9.66 this season. And given they average 55.83 as well, they invariably offer their middle-order superstars a very solid platform to launch from. Knight Riders must be a bit envious.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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