Dubai: Kolkata Knight Riders have found an ace in their pack in Lockie Ferguson as they look to contain the explosive batting line-up of Royal Challengers Bangalore in a high profile IPL clash in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The last time around when they met in Sharjah, AB de Villiers led a late and brutal assault to score 73 not out off 33 balls as RCB inflicted a 82-run defeat on the Knights. While the third placed Virat Kohli-led side wear a more settled look in comparison, the two-time champions are still looking for answers to a number of problems like the ideal combination of openers and the worrying form of Andre Russell.
Shubhman Gill, who was supposed to play the senior partner among the openers, may have scored 311 runs from nine matches - but his strike-rate of 113.91 is simply not impressive to give the Knights a headstart in the powerplay overs. While the team management has not been overtly critical of their bright Indian batting talent, former dasher Virender Sehwag minced no words in a talk show that KKR should consider bringing him down the order if his strike-rate does not improve quicky.
The Shah Rukh Khan co-owned team will be in a better mental space though after having the last laugh in the Super Over against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but they would have to thank the Kiwi speedster Ferguson profusely for that. Ferguson made all the difference to the team’s yet another ordinary show, returning with sensational figures of 3/15 in his four overs and 2/2 from three balls in Super Over.
The way he mixed up his slower deliveries with a disconcerting pace in Sunday’s match could be the template for the fast bowlers on the progressively slow wickets in the UAE and it will be interesting to see how new captain Eoin Morgan uses him against the likes of AB, Kohli and opener Aaron Finch.
Meanwhile, Russell, KKR’s go-to man for several seasons now, no longer seems the same batsman with just 92 runs from nine matches at an average of 11.50. If his abysmal form was not enough, the Jamaican has also picked up some niggles on the field and should definitely not play on reputation alone against such a balanced outfit as RCB. It remains to be seen whether they bring in Sunil Narine, whose action has been cleared, as both Kuldeep Yadav and Varun Chakravarthy had done a decent job in the last game.
AB, meanwhile, has been simply unstoppable for RCB and single-handedly won the game with an unbeaten 55 from 22 balls in their 178-run chase against the Royals. Kohli will also look to convert his starts as they look to brighten their play-off hopes with a double against KKR.
Catch the match
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on Bein Sports