Kolkata Knight Riders have been
left to decide their keys. They don't have to worry about complicated
calculations right now. During his three-day break, he saw Rajasthan Royals and
Punjab Kings crash out of the race for the playoffs. They now only have Mumbai
Indians, 12 points with them. But the Knight Riders have a much better net run
rate, so they need to beat the Royals on Thursday. And once they do, they
should expect Mumbai to notch up a big win - as they did against Royals on
Tuesday - against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Royals bid adieu to their playoff chances after being reduced to 90 in an eight-wicket loss on Tuesday, two days after a big win against the then-table-toppers Chennai Super Kings. It is their discrepancies that have cost them a lot this season. They don't have much to gain or lose from this game, but they do have a chance to jeopardize the chances of the Knight Riders, who could survive the playoff race until the final group game on Friday - in that case, Knight Riders will be forced to take out their calculator.
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Knight Riders extended their playoff chances with a close win against Sunrisers. His bowling was superb and Shubman Gill scored some crucial runs at the top of the order. But he struggled till the last over to chase down a meager 115 in Dubai. They will need more collective effort from their batsmen. More importantly, they would like their captain Eoin Morgan to be among the runs. They've been in a similar situation in the last two seasons - losing important games, waiting for results to come out, and finally finishing fifth. They must be trying to break the spell. And this time everything is in his hands.
In the news
Good news for Knight Riders: Andre Russell and Lockie Ferguson, who missed the last few matches, may return. Although no official information has been received about their availability yet, on Wednesday, both appeared on the net. If they are available, Shakib Al Hasan and Tim Southee will have to sit out.
Evin Lewis got a look-in from a physio after he injured his leg while batting in the middle. He has been a force to be reckoned with at the top of the order, so they will be hoping it doesn't turn into anything serious.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Evin Lewis/Liam Livingstone, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 Shivam Dube, 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 David Miller, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Kuldip Yadav, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Chetan Sakariya
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Venkatesh Iyer, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Andre Russell/Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Lockie Ferguson/Tim Southee, 10 Prasidh Krishna/Sandeep Warrier, 11 Varun Chakravarthy
Lewis has been pretty good with the bat this season: 151 runs in five matches at a strike rate of 162.36. Knight Riders may be especially looking to bowl to their West Indies teammate and fellow Trinidadian Sunil Narine when he is at the crease. Narine has the upper hand in this match-up: in T20Is, he has dismissed Lewis six times in 14 matches and has scored nearly 84 runs against him in the latter.
Match prediction: Though Rajasthan Royals remain a fairly unpredictable side, the Sharjah challenge is expected to neutralize them against Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR are the favorites to win the contest and strengthen their case for a top 4 finish.
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