Fielding is an area where we are trying to improve as a group: Paul Collingwood
5 Sep 2021
We are just two games away from the end of another thrilling season of the Indian Premier League that produced such a high level of competitiveness that even a contextual dead rubber produced a last-ball match-winning six.
The edition, 14th, did throw up many permutations and combinations for a long time to keep more than seven teams interested till the last week of the tournament that ran nearly two months.
Along with many favourable outcomes and many wishful thinkings from fans, there were chances of a new IPL champion as the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Delhi Capitals qualified for the playoffs in the second successive season.
However, there was a huge sense of history in the making, there were signs of old frailties coming back to haunt the present in the case of Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers and the same coming to rescue the present in the case of the Chennai Super Kings.
Both the RCB and the Capitals committed the same mistakes they have been committing in the last many years but the Capitals have leverage of an extra shot at the place in the finals owing to their domination of the league stage.
It is with that leverage that the Rishabh Pant’s men will come raring against the Eoin Morgan’s troops on the night of the second qualifier. Morgan’s men on the other hand are on a marathon with wins one after another from a hopeless position before the UAE leg of the tournament.
The Capitals won 10 of their 14 games in the league stage while the Knight Riders scrambled through to the playoffs with equal numbers of wins and losses at 7.
On paper, the Capitals look stronger and far more balanced side than then men in purple and gold, but if credentials on paper would have mattered so much, Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians would have galloped the trophy even before the start and there wouldn’t have been any competition between other sides, and MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings with all the limitations in both batting and bowling department wouldn’t have been the first team to qualify for the playoffs and then the final.
The Knight Riders have defeated all sides in their aspects of the game and have found different heroes to come on the top of the different opposition in different games. What makes their run in the desert a dream run is that they have managed to come this far even after losing their biggest asset in Andre Russell midway through the second phase.
On the other hand, the Capitals have had an on and off UAE leg and Prithvi Shaw’s fifty against the Super Kings in the first qualifier was the first score of fifty or more by their batsmen in the second phase.
Their batting, which started on such a phenomenal note against the Super Kings only in Mumbai, has started to flounder at the business end of the tournament and they were sailing through an excellent bunch of bowlers. However, that aspect of their team has appeared to weaken as well with the likes of Avesh Khan, who appeared to be rising through the ranks has been off-colour in two consecutive games, one of which was the big qualifier.
So, while the Capitals are a superior side on paper, the Knight Riders are the better in-form side of the two and we again don’t need to look beyond Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings to establish what among quality on paper and form matters the most in this competition.
However, it is easier said than done and the Knight Riders would be wary of having to bowl at the Capitals batting lineup full of players who can change the complete course of a game in a span of few balls. They perished against the Super Kings but they were not out of the game for a majority of the game.
Their lower-order batsmen such as Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer were trying to arrest a collapse while batting with an overall strike rate in excess of 130 and that tells some story about their approach in batting. And the Knight Riders will have the hammering they received at the hands of Prithvi Shaw in the last game fresh in their mind before they go on the path of overconfidence.
Contests within contest
Sunil Narine was Knight Riders’ hero against the RCB both with the bat and ball but he is unlikely to receive any of those offerings provided by RCB bowlers and also batsmen.
His free swing of the bat will be tested severely by the pace of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada, while the Indian core of Shikhar Dhawan, Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and skipper Pant will match fire with fire against his bowling.
Apart from Narine, Knight Riders will also be reliant on the mystery fingers of Varun Chakaravarthy, who is going through the time of his life with the ball.
The eight over spell between Narine and Chakaravarthy, possibly in the middle to the late phase of the innings against the Indian quartet will dictate the flow of the game.
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Match Number: Qualifier 2
Date and Time: October 13, 2021, 07:30 pm IST (10:00 GMT), 06:00 pm Local, 02:00 pm GMT
Venue: Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
Broadcast and Livestream: Star Sports and Hotstar
Pitch and weather conditions
The pitches in Sharjah have been on the slower and lower side and although there were expectations of some run on offer on the new pitch that was to be used in playoffs, the eliminator between the Knight Riders and RCB busted all the expectations.
Highly qualified and experienced batsmen on both sides of the fence struggled to get going and although the RCB committed more mistakes to not even touch 140, the KKR too struggled in the end to surpass their total.
The trend is likely to continue in the second qualifier and it will give an advantage to the Knight Riders as they are more aware of the conditions and aspects of the game such as good first innings total on the pitch against the Capitals, who are coming off from relatively truer surfaces in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The night of the game is likely to be a pleasant one for the players with humidity hovering in the range between 30 per cent to 40 per cent. There is little to no chance of dew impacting the game and it’s the KKR who will hope to see it that way in the game as a majority of the gameplan revolves around the eight overs of spin.
The Capitals made an interesting choice of strengthening their bowling attack in the big game against the Super Kings instead of bolstering the batting department which has been a lagging force in the second phase. They however managed to post a challenging total for MS Dhoni’s men and used that cushion of the sixth bowler to keep the game very close.
The sixth bowler—Tom Curran picked three wickets but was in the eye of a storm after Dhoni smashed him to all parts of the ground in the last over and Pant was scrutinised for not bowling Kagiso Rabada over him.
If Curran wouldn’t have played the last game, the Capitals would have included Sam Billings in their playing XI. However, it’s a conundrum for them now as they could not defend more than 170 runs even with a six-man bowling attack, and thinning bowling resources after two underperformances would be a brave call to make.
Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant (C &WK), Shreyas Iyer, Shimron Hetmyer, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Tom Curran/Sam Billings, Kagiso Rabada, Avesh Khan, Anrich Nortje
Kolkata Knight Riders
Shakib Al Hasan could find a place in the middle order only after the injury to Russell and he was cool as a cucumber in the final over to ensure the Knight Riders got over the line in the eliminator. There were unconfirmed reports that he would leave the IPL bubble and join the Bangladesh bubble for the T20 World Cup but he marked his presence with a cool head.
There is no position up for grabs in the Knight Riders playing XI and Eoin Morgan is all but likely to field an unchanged XI.
Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (C), Dinesh Karthik (WK), Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakaravarthy
IPL 2021 | Qualifier 2: CE Fantasy XI
Venkatesh Iyer, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Varun Chakaravarthy
Captain: Prithvi Shaw
Vice-captain: Nitish Rana