The Kolkata Knight Riders will want to move one step closer to sealing a place in the IPL 2016 playoffs by getting the better of the Rising Pune Supergiants on Saturday. While KKR are very much in the top-four reckoning, RPS' season is as good as over.
That will be quite disappointing for MS Dhoni too, because RPS came into this new IPL season confident that they could make an impact on their debut. With Dhoni at the helm, Stephen Fleming as coach and several of the old CSK guard in the team as well, RPS, on paper at least, looked good for a top four place.
But, injuries and inconsistent bowling have hurt them quite a bit, and, as a result, they lie bottom of the table with just three wins from 11 matches and absolutely no chance of qualifying for the playoffs this season. KKR, though, very much can, and, therefore, they will be keen to pick up two points at the Eden Gardens.
Here is how the match in Kolkata might play out.
If KKR bat first: Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa put on 25 runs for the first wicket, before the latter is dismissed by Thisara Perera. Manish Pandey, who comes in at one down, looks in good touch from the off, and even if his skipper falls in the eighth over, Pandey is there to anchor the innings nicely, scoring a wonderfully-crafted half-century. With Andre Russell and Yusuf Pathan coming in and smashing a few towards the end, KKR get to 165.
Ajinkya Rahane and Usman Khawaja finally put on a big partnership, allying for 87 runs in ten overs. When Khawaja falls, RPS are on course for the target, but Shakib Al Hasan and Piyush Chawla bring KKR back with a couple of quick wickets. However, MS Dhoni and Rahane come together, stay calm, and finish off the match, with a little help from Perera.
If RPS bat first: Rahane and Khawaja get off to a smart start, scoring 49 from the Powerplay overs. They then take that to 78 from 9.4, before Rahane gets out, to Sunil Narine. Khawaja races to his half-century, and with George Bailey coming in at No.3 and finding form, RPS are in a position of strength. Even after Khawaja and Saurabh Tiwary's wicket, RPS, playing pressure-free cricket, now that they have absolutely nothing to lose, manage to post 171, with Dhoni and Perera chipping in nicely.
Gambhir and Uthappa are off to a great start, as KKR stay with the required run rate. The opening partnership of 64 sets the game up for the home team, and, while the run rate drops a little in the middle overs, Pandey and Gambhir take KKR closer. When the two batsmen fall in quick succession, KKR are left needing 65 from 36 balls. Roared on by the home crowd, Russell, Pathan and Suryakumar Yadav knock down those runs, sealing a win in the final over.