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IPL: Knights eye handsome win over Rajasthan Royals to remain ahead in play-off race

Doing so will keep KKR in a good place to book the fourth and last play-off berth that’s up for grabs
Andre Russell
Andre Russell
File picture

Our Bureau   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.10.21, 01:27 AM

Having done all the hard work to keep themselves alive after a colourless showing in the first half of this IPL, an alert Kolkata Knight Riders would certainly be looking for one more punch in their final league-phase tie versus Rajasthan Royals at Sharjah on Thursday.

Doing so will keep them in a good place to book the fourth and last play-off berth that’s up for grabs.


That said, Eoin Morgan and his men must look to win comprehensively against the Royals, who are already out of the play-offs race and go into Thursday’s game after getting a hiding from Mumbai Indians the other evening.

It’s important for the fourth-placed Knight Riders to win big as Mumbai too are on 12 points like them and will face the bottom-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad in their final game of the league phase.

Annihilating the Royals on Tuesday to keep their last-four chances alive, it’s expected that Mumbai won’t face much trouble in prevailing over the Sunrisers. So if the Knight Riders, who already have a superior net run rate (+0.294) than Mumbai’s (-0.048), winning by a big margin over the Royals could make the situation even more improbable for the fifth-placed Mumbai.

In that case, Rohit Sharma and Co. may not qualify even if they register a thumping win over the Sunrisers.

Overall, it’s a scenario that shouldn’t be making the Knights too tense as all they need to do is to stick to their game and avoid unforced errors. At the same time, captain Morgan’s bat needs to do some talking in this business end of the tournament, as it will also be followed by the much-awaited T20 World Cup.

Bullish on Russell

One major positive for the Knights ahead of the Royals clash is the return of both all-rounder Andre Russell and pacer Lockie Ferguson in the park.

The duo resumed on-field training on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, which certainly raises hopes of their comebacks in the XI on Thursday.

“Feels good to be back on the park doing what I love! God answers players,” Russell wrote on his Instagram handle on Wednesday with a picture of him batting at nets.

Russell regaining fitness in time will be a huge relief for the West Indies too as the explosive all-rounder would play a key role in the defence of their T20 World Cup title.

As for the Knights, they will in all likelihood at least bring Russell back in the XI even though his replacement Tim Southee has done a fair job in the matches that he was a part of so far. So taking that into account, the Knights may not bench Southee to accommodate Russell and instead could drop Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib-al Hasan from the line-up.

Now if Ferguson too is included, Southee may have to stay out in that case as it would be wiser to go with two spinners (Sunil Narine along with Varun Chakravarthy) on a slow, sluggish Sharjah wicket.

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