Power hitters give Kolkata Knight Riders the edge in battle for final spot
Sun could set on IPL regular-season winners Hyderabad
Qualifier 2: Hyderabad v Kolkata
Sky Sports Mix, 2.30pm Friday
Sunrisers Hyderabad finished the IPL regular season on top of the table but bookmakers rate them outsiders to beat Kolkata Knight Riders and qualify for Sunday’s final against Chennai.
The Sunrisers appeared to have one foot in the final when they had Chennai on the ropes at 62-6, chasing 140, in Tuesday’s first qualifier.
However, the Super Kings rallied to claim a two-wicket victory, sending Hyderabad into what is effectively a semi-final against Kolkata.
The Knight Riders kept alive their chances of lifting the trophy with a 25-run win over Rajasthan at Eden Gardens and they have home advantage again for the clash with Hyderabad.
Dinesh Karthik’s men had their wobbles in the eliminator, recovering from 51-4 to post a competitive total of 169-7 and relying on their spinners to peg back Rajasthan after a strong start to the run-chase.
Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine are a formidable spin attack and Hyderabad’s lack of batting depth was exposed against Chennai.
Unless skipper Kane Williamson (the second-highest runscorer in the league stage) goes big, the Sunrisers are likely to struggle and the skipper’s dismissal for 24 on Tuesday prompted a slump to 88-6 after 15 overs.
Carlos Brathwaite belted an unbeaten 43 late on to give the Hyderabad bowlers something to defend but Kolkata have a couple of big-hitting West Indians of their own in opener Narine and middle-order man Andre Russell.
Russell hit five sixes in the win over Rajasthan, when Kolkata won the maximums battle 8-5, and they are worth backing to clear the ropes more often than Hyderabad on their own patch.
Chris Lynn, skipper Karthik and Russell are destructive hitters and it could be worth backing opener Narine to top-score at a juicy 6-1.
The spinner’s promotion to open the batting for Big Bash franchise Melbourne Renegades was originally regarded as a gimmick but he has become remarkably consistent in the pinch-hitting role.
There are bound to be failures given his aggressive approach in the Powerplay overs – he was stumped second ball for four against Rajasthan on Wednesday – but he has scored a healthy 331 runs this season.
That tally includes a 36-ball 75 against Kings XI Punjab and a 19-ball fifty against Bangalore – both the highest scores of the Kolkata innings – and he is too big a price to top-score again.
Kolkata to hit more sixes
3pts 4-6 Paddy Power
S Narine top Kolkata runscorer
1pt 6-1 Ladbrokes
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