Before the craze of the IPL began, the people of Kolkata and Hyderabad have been locking horns with each other for centuries, with both cities attempting to claim bragging rights over the other for their different versions of biryani.
On Saturday night, the Kolkata Knight Riders face the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the battle of the biryanis.
Last time they met: Hyderabad, April 2019
Batting first, Kolkata were destined for 200-plus having reached 1-50 in the fifth over. But some poor batting and quality bowling from Rashid Khan (1-23 off four overs) and Khaleel Ahmed (3-33 off four overs) saw the Knight Riders post a meagre total of 8-159. Half-centuries from David Warner (67 off 38) and Jonny Bairstow (80 off 43) made sure there were no issues in the Sunrisers’ run chase, winning by nine wickets with 30 balls to spare.
Both teams started their 2020 IPL campaign with a loss and will be looking to get back on track with a win at Abu Dhabi. The Sunrisers’ opening-match loss to Bangalore became sourer following Mitchell Marsh being ruled out of the remainder of the tournament. However, they have a quality all-rounder by the name of Mohammad Nabi who is much better suited on these UAE wickets.
The Sunrisers have a quality top three in David Warner, Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey.
But their middle order is heavily inexperienced and is likely to be exposed more often throughout the tournament. Despite scoring a half-century, Bairstow may have to make way for Wriddhiman Saha while Kane Williamson comes in for Priyarm Garg to strengthen Hyderabad’s top four and ensure their middle order isn’t as exposed as their XI from the first game.
Another selection that shocked me in the Sunrisers’ first game was the omission of Khaleel Ahmed. Ahmed took 19 wickets in the nine matches he played last year and finished in the IPL’s top five wicket-takers. Among the top 40 wicket-takers in the previous season, only Kagiso Rabada (14.72) had a better bowling average than Khaleel (15.1). He has to come into the Sunrisers’ playing XI for Thangarasu Natarajan.
As for Kolkata, only Shivam Mavi (2-32 off four overs) and Sunil Narine (1-22 off four overs) offered any form of control with the ball in their first game. Pat Cummins probably had the worst T20 spell of his career, conceding 0-49 in three overs. He’s a world-class bowler, but you cannot bowl the Australian length on UAE pitches. Cummins kept on pitching it back of a length and continued to be pulled away for sixes against Mumbai.
KKR have some big names in their squad: Eoin Morgan, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Pat Cummins alongside two accomplished Indian T20I players in Dinesh Karthik and Kuldeep Yadav. But the inexperience of their Indian quicks is worrying, and they’ll have to rectify that soon. While it is essential not to make wholesale changes, the likes of Sandeep Warrier, Kuldeep Yadav and Pat Cummins will be worried that should they not perform consistently, a spot on the bench awaits them.
Despite the possibility of dew in the second innings, I see Kolkata as slight favourites. They’ve been based in Abu Dhabi for the past few weeks, and the cobwebs will be out after a rusty first game. With calming heads in Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan and head coach Brendon McCullum in the dressing room, they’ll know not to panic after a 49-run loss. If they get the one-percenters right against their opponents, then I see nothing less than a Kolkata win, especially if the Sunrisers keep that fragile middle order.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (captain and keeper), Nikhil Naik/Rinku Singh, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (captain), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed.