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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Indian Premier League: In home stay, Kolkata Knight Riders must slay Lucknow Super Giants first

The latest find in India’s fast-bowling arsenal, Mayank, who has consistently breached the 150kmph-plus barrier in IPL 2024, would have made for an entertaining presence on the bouncy Eden wicket and in front of what is expected to be a full house

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 14.04.24, 07:31 AM
Sunil Narine at nets on Saturday.

Sunil Narine at nets on Saturday. Sanat Kumar Sinha

The Kolkata Knight Riders can breathe easy... it’s almost certain that Lucknow Super Giants fast bowler Mayank Yadav will be unavailable at Eden Gardens on Sunday afternoon.

The latest find in India’s fast-bowling arsenal, Mayank, who has consistently breached the 150kmph-plus barrier in IPL 2024, would have made for an entertaining presence on the bouncy Eden wicket and in front of what is expected to be a full house.

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For mentor Gautam Gambhir, such ‘blessings’ mean little since he wanted “the opposition to put their best team” against KKR. But “a little bit of tightness at the top of his hip” has forced Mayank to rest since their last two matches putting their bowling combination in a quandary.

Match-winning three-wi­cket hauls against Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru have put him in the reckoning for the T20 World Cup. The LSG bowlers have struggled in his absence once the spinners failed to make inroads. It showed in their loss to Delhi Capitals, their second in five matches, on Friday.

The spinners could have a say on the Eden turf, but the carry will also favour the strokeplayers as was evident during KKR’s only home match against Sunrisers Hyderabad last month. Following three away fixtures, they now return to the Eden for five back-to-back matches.

If Phil Salt and Andre Russell’s half-centuries had helped KKR make a strong start, Sunrisers’ Heinrich Kl­aasen threatened to take the match away with 63 off 29 balls until Harshit Rana came to their rescue in the final over.

KKR maintained the winning momentum for three matches before losing to Chennai Super Kings earlier this week. Salt and Sunil Narine’s opening combination has ru­led in the Powerplay and once they failed to meet the expectations in Chennai, the rest of the batting crumbled.

Young Angkrish Raghuvanshi has been a useful addition though a lot is expected of Shreyas Iyer. The KKR captain has failed to set the strike-rate soaring which reflected poorly on the team total against CSK.

KKR are likely to return to their three-spinner formula with Narine and Varun Chakravarthy joined by Suyash Sharma as Impact sub. It could work against the likes of Quinton de Kock, Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran.

Gambhir’s return to the KKR dressing room has provided the players with security and a happy bonding which has reflected in their performance.

How KKR’s Mitchell Starc performs in his opening burst could decide the tone for LSG’s innings but the Australian has been far from his best in this format. “Four games doesn’t make him a bad bowler,” said Gambhir. “And four good ga­mes don’t make him a brilliant bowler either.”

The left-armer didn’t pra­ctice on Saturday but has been honing his skills with toe-crushing yorkers to be more effective. So expect more such stuff from the most expensive IPL cricketer.

It’s KKR’s home match, but it is also about LSG’s homecoming since they belong to the city-based Sanjiv Goenka-led RPSG Group. In a bid to split the spectators’ allegiance, LSG, like last season, will turn out in Mohun Bagan’s green-and-maroon colours. Whether that can bring them luck remains to be seen.

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