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IPL 2024: Batting one-upmanship in Qualifier 1

A determined Kolkata Knight Riders and a smash-and-grab Sunrisers Hyderabad have approached this IPL with a similar formula — go berserk in the Power Play and then maintain the tempo through fearless hitting in the middle and death.
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 22:47 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 22:47 IST

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Ahmedabad: Two teams, who have taken power hitting in T20 cricket to a whole new level, will come face to face on Tuesday in what is expected to be an explosive IPL-17 Qualifier 1 here on Tuesday.

A determined Kolkata Knight Riders and a smash-and-grab Sunrisers Hyderabad have approached this IPL with a similar formula — go berserk in the Power Play and then maintain the tempo through fearless hitting in the middle and death. That strategy has seen the two sides constantly push the boundaries of leather hitting that has left bowlers wondering if they should be replaced by bowling machines.

If the destructive Phil Salt (435 runs, 182.00 strike rate) and "born-again" opener Sunil Narine (461, 182.93) have done the job exceptionally well for KKR with the average score for the two-time champions in the Power Play being 67 runs, Travis Head (533, 201.13) and Abhishek Sharma (467, 209.41) have raised the bar a notch higher for SRH through sheer brutality, the franchise averaging 71 runs — highest amongst all teams.

If Andre Russell (222, 185.00), Venkatesh Iyer (267, 149.16) and Rinku Singh (222, 185.00) have provided muscle to KKR in the middle and end phases, Heinrich Klaasen (381, 183.17), Nitish Kumar Reddy (276, 151.64) and Abdul Samad (162, 178.02) have been instrumental in SRH surging past 250 on three occasions. 

So, it’s a no-brainer what the two sides will be attempting to do at the Narendra Modi Stadium although Sunrisers will be feeling slightly more confident considering they got their juices flowing again following a brief period of slump while KKR haven’t struck a ball since their win over Mumbai Indians at home on May 11.

Not only were KKR’s last two league matches abandoned without a ball being bowled, they’ll also be without their second highest run-scorer Salt who is out on national duty. The last two games were an ideal scenario for the two-time champions, now energised following the arrival of former cup-winning captain Gautam Gambhir as mentor, to try out Rahmanullah Gurbaz but it remains to be seen whether they’ll gamble with the Afghani in such a big game or pin hopes on former opener Venkatesh Iyer with Narine.

Sunrisers have no such worries. Both Head and Abhishek have been in irrepressible form and the former will return to a venue where he hammered a career-defining century in the final against a shell-shocked India to power the mighty Australians to a record-extending sixth ODI World Cup last November.

While there’s no doubting KKR will rue the absence of Salt, they’ll also be aware they have two spinners who could be the key ingredients for success on an unpredictable Motera pitch. Varun Chakravarthy (18 wickets) and Narine (15) have not been their key wicket-takers but their economies of 8.43 and 6.63 have been extremely impressive as well given how easily 200 has been breached by teams this season.

If KKR win the toss and chose to field first where they won’t be much dew, the duo could potentially make life difficult for Sunrisers’ power hitters. Even if they have to defend, given how cunning they are with their respective crafts, they could play decisive roles.

If there’s one area of weakness for Sunrisers, it’s their bowling. Right from lead pacers Pat Cummins and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to first-change T Natarajan and main spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, none have an economy below 9.00. It’s been their massive worry this season and the Knight Riders will be looking to exploit that. Sunrisers, as has been the case, know they have batting firepower to bail them out.

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Published 20 May 2024, 22:47 IST

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