Defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) will have their task cut out when they take on a confident Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) square-up at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
The David Warner-skippered visitors have looked in good touch in their first three matches albeit succumbing to the guilt of Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan Singh and losing the previous encounter on the road.
Harbhajan, a veteran of 103 Tests and 236 ODIs for India, brought all his experience into play to dish out a miserly spell of four overs conceding just 23 runs with two wickets of SRH captain David Warner and Deepak Hooda.
The timely blow, especially of Warner who was looking good for his polished 49, stalled SRH’S charge as they managed to post 158 in their 20 overs which eventually proved insufficient as Rohit Sharma and co-won by four wickets with more than an over remaining.
But the reversal has been more of an aberration as SRH showed their class in their victory Marcha over Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Lions in the first two matches.
Against a weakened RCB — who were without the services of captain Virat Kohli, star South African batsman AB De Villiers, and Indian opener KL Rahul — SRH rode a whirlwind 27-ball 62 from seasoned campaigner Yuvraj Singh to post a mammoth 207 batting first, finally scripting a 35-run win.
Captain Warner (76, 45b; 6×4, 4×6) and compatriot Moises Henriques (52, 39b; 6×4, 0x6) made short work of Lions’ modest 135 in their next game onward to a nine-wicket triumph.
Besides the batsmen, 18-year old Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan has started his maiden IPL stint with a bang, already having six wickets in his kitty.
But in KKR, the tourists will face a side basking in the glory of a marauding eight-wicket triumph over Kings XI Punjab on Thursday at the same venue.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir led from the front with an unbeaten 72 off 49 balls as the twice IPL champions recorded their season’s first home victory in style with 21 balls to spare.
Sunil Narine vindicated his team’s decision to promote him as an opening bat by cracking an 18-ball 37 to set the stage for his side’s win with Robin Uthappa (26 off 16) and Manish Pandey (25 off 16 not out) getting starts.
While chasing, KKR seemed to be preferring a foil to Gambhir who would whack the ball from the outset.
Chris Lynn was just what the doctor had ordered as the Australian bludgeoned 93 off 41 balls in the first game against Gujarat Lions. But with him out for a lengthy period due to a shoulder injury, that option was gone.
Narine, much to everyone’s surprise, filled that role studiously on Thursday and KKR would be hoping the West Indian mystery spinner can continue that.
In nine matches played between the two teams, SRH has won only thrice, finishing second best six times.
KKR: Gautam Gambhir (c), Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell, R Sanjay Yadav, Ishank Jaggi, Darren Bravo, Sayan Ghosh, AColin de Grandhomme
SRH: David Warner (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Moises Henriques, Naman Ojha, Ricky Bhui, Kane Williamson, Siddarth Kaul, Bipul Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Ben Cutting, Abhimanyu Singh, Mustafizur Rahman, Barinder Sran, Deepak Hooda, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Siraj, Eklavya Dwivedi, Chris Jordan, Mohammad Nabi, Ben Laughlin, Tanmay Agarwal, Pravin Tambe