It's the last chance saloon for Sunrisers Hyderabad as only a convincing victory will give them the faintest hope of securing the final play-off spot. Kolkata Knight Riders will look to extend an impressive winning streak of six games to try to force their way past a stuttering Chennai Super Kings into 2nd place.
Venue: Eden Garden, Kolkata
Date: Saturday, May 24
Time: 3:30 p.m. BST/8 p.m. local time
Live on: Sony Six, Star Sports HD, Star Sports 1 (India), ITV4 (United Kingdom), SuperSport (South Africa), OSN (UAE), SkyTV (New Zealand), Network Ten (Australia), Channel 9 (Bangladesh), Sportsnet and Omni (Canada), Sports Max (West Indies), Geo Super (Pakistan) and Starhub (Singapore).
There will be cloud overhead but it is still due to be a very hot day in Kolkata with temperatures peaking at around 37 degrees Celsius at lunchtime according to the Weather Channel. This will drop throughout the afternoon to a more comfortable 32 degrees Celsius by the time the first pair stroll out to bat, though humidity will be high, starting at around 65 percent and rising.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have done well to even reach this game with something to play for, with back-to-back victories in must-win games against Bangalore Royal Challengers and CSK keeping them in the hunt. However, sitting between themselves and a play-off spot currently are Rajasthan Royals on 16 points, and the Royals' final opponents Mumbai Indians, level with the SRH on 14 points but with a better net run-rate.
A convincing victory which would vastly improve their net run-rate, currently a paltry -0.231 compared with Mumbai's -0.086 and the Royals' +0.247, is their only hope and even then they require a perfect storm with Mumbai beating Rajasthan without vastly improving their own NRR.
Unfortunately for the Sunrisers, they could hardly have faced a more daunting opponent in Kolkata Knight Riders. Flying into this game on the back of six wins in a row which has seen them secure their play-off spot, KKR will be spurred on by the chance to knock CSK out of the top two. This would mean a spot in the first qualifier, with two chances to reach the final.
Currently sitting in 3rd place and faced with the one-off eliminator game, KKR's superlative form has put pressure on the Chennai Super Kings and they have wilted, losing three games in a row to leave the door to second spot ajar as the Knight Riders have joined them on 16 points with only a marginally inferior NRR. With CSK taking on BRC in Saturday's first game, a slip-up from the Super Kings would push the door wide-open for KKR, with victory alone enough to leapfrog the Chennai outfit.
Hyderabad's mini-renaissance has been built on a platform of strong opening partnerships, with David Warner starring in place of the largely underwhelming Aaron Finch, having excelled at various positions down the order, and Shikar Dhawan finally converting starts into more telling contributions. Each has scored a fifty in constructing consecutive century partnerships, and with both coming in successful run-chases SRH may well be looking to bowl first and give the in-form pair a chance to make it a hat-trick in pursuit of another target.
KKR have their own pair of in-form batsmen in leading run-scorer Robin Uthappa and Bangladeshi all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. Two games ago KKR cruised to their target of 156 with Uthappa hitting 67 from 39 balls and Shakib a blistering 46 from 21 balls. More impressive still was their most recent victory where Uthappa flayed the BRC attack for an unbeaten 83 off just 51 balls and Shakib joined him in the eighth over to plunder 60 runs from 38 balls as KKR posted an unassailable 195 from their 20 overs, a target Bangalore got nowhere near.
At the bowler's end all eyes will be on the race for the Purple Cap, with Sunil Narine of KKR and Bhuvneshwar Kumar of SRH both boasting an impressive 20 wickets. Their stats are not far off identical, with the former slightly more economical with a marginally better average, and the latter nudging it on strike-rate.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Last time out at Eden Gardens Sunil Narine was highly effective, taking the key wickets of Virat Kholi, Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers and going for only 20 runs from his four overs. Most frequently on as first or second change, should the in-form SRH opening pair of Warner and Dhawan get off to a flyer Narine could be the key to keeping KKR in the game, offering skipper Gautam Gambhir both control and incision throughout this edition of the IPL.
Though David Warner will be their chief hope in boosting their NRR which is integral to any chance of progression to the play-offs, much will also be riding on how Dale Steyn recovers from his mauling at the hands of MS Dhoni who blitzed him for 24 runs from his final over in the last game. Steyn has been a little erratic in this edition, but still possesses undeniable calibre and was effective in shackling KKR last time the two sides met, claiming Gambhir's wicket in his first over and going for just 6 runs in the 19th over to give SRH a fighting chance, albeit one that was soon extinguished by the swinging blade of Ryan ten Doeschate.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir (capt.), Manvinder Bisla, Piyush Chawla, Pat Cummins, Debabrata Das, Jacques Kallis, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Lynn, Sayan Mondal, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Veer Pratap Singh, Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Robin Uthappa, Vinay Kumar and Suryakumar Yadav.
DJG Sammy (capt.), S Anirudha, A Ashish Reddy, RK Bhui, S Dhawan, AJ Finch, MC Henriques, JO Holder, MC Juneja, B Kumar, CV Milind, A Mishra, NV Ojha, P Parameswaran, Parvez Rasool, IK Pathan, AG Paunikar, KL Rahul, I Sharma, KV Sharma, DW Steyn, BRM Taylor, Y Venugopal Rao, DA Warner
Squads and data taken from ESPNCricinfo.