Kolkata Knight Riders will have to bat out of their skin to stop a marauding Rajasthan Royals when the two teams clash in an IPL match at the Dubai International Stadium here on Wednesday.
Having started off as underdogs, the Royals have taken the IPL by storm, chasing down the highest tournament total 224 against Kings XI Punjab in their last match.
In two wins from two matches, the Royals have got past the 200-mark with ease. In their success, they have found two stars in Sanju Samson and Rahul Tewatia, who have outshone marquee players.
In his second coming at the Royals, little known Haryana all-rounder Tewatia has got instant stardom for his 31-ball 53 against KXIP, which helped the side chase down a record 224 with three balls to spare against KXIP.
Struggling to get off the blocks quickly, Tewatia, who was on 17 from 23 deliveries with the team needing 51 from the last three overs, suddenly woke up from the slumber, smacking left-arm quick Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in an over to turn the tables for RR.
But the season so far belongs to Samson -- the wicketkeeper from Kerala.
Boasting of the season's highest strike-rate of 214.86, Samson has two successive half-centuries that has once again put him in contention for a longer rope in the Indian team as a keeper-batsman.
Skipper Steve Smith has been ever reliable, striking two half-centuries, while opener Jos Buttler will be waiting to explode.
To match or even surpass the Royals, KKR have the biggest stars in Andre Russell to go along with reigning World Cup winning English skipper Eoin Morgan, one of the best in limited-overs cricket.
But both Morgan and Russell have got limited opportunities so far, having dropped down to No 5 and 6 respectively.
The fixture might just finally see them bat higher up, especially the star Jamaican, who was their highest run-getter last season with 510 runs at a astonishing strike rate of 204.81.
Having started off with a familiar defeat to Mumbai Indians in their opener, Kolkata Knight Riders put up a determined show to bounce back against a sloppy Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Talented opener Shubman Gill's unbeaten half-century, aided by Morgan's late firepower overtook SRH's below-par 145 with two overs to spare.
Come Wednesday, it may well be a run feast with no target 'safe' against the Royals.
Dubai has been host to both the Super-Over matches this season. The venue will be an uncharted territory for both the teams who will be playing here for the first time this season.
For the record, the teams batting first have won all the five matches here so far.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik(C&Wk), Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Sandeep Warrier, Rahul Tripathi, Siddhesh Lad, Nikhil Naik, Chris Green, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Rinku Singh, Ali Khan, Tom Banton, Manimaran Siddharth
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler (Wk), Steven Smith (C), Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, Robin Uthappa, Jofra Archer, Riyan Parag, Tom Curran, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, David Miller, Aniruddha Joshi, Manan Vohra, Andrew Tye, Shashank Singh, Mahipal Lomror, Oshane Thomas, Mayank Markande, Anuj Rawat, Kartik Tyagi, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Akash Singh
Starting XI Prediction:
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (C & Wk), Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Rajasthan Royals: Steven Smith (C), Jos Buttler (Wk), Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Tom Curran, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat
Rajasthan Royals vs Kolkata Knight Riders Dream11 Picks:
Shubman Gill, Steven Smith (C), Sanju Samson, Dinesh Karthik (Wk), Rahul Tewatia, Eoin Morgan, Jofra Archer, Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy
Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders have played 20 head-to-head matches out of which both have 10 wins each. The teams have also taken the match to super-overs twice.
Pat Cummins needs just two wickets to take his T20 wickets tally to 100.
Toss: Rajasthan Royals win the toss, opt to field
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik(C & Wk), Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler(Wk), Steven Smith(C), Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Tom Curran, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat
The game begins!
Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine are at the crease. Gill is on strike. Jofra Archer will open the attack for RR.
Score after 5 overs: KKR (36-1)
KKR have to find a new opener to pair with Shubman Gill. Sunil Narine has underperformed in the previous two games, and now was once again dismissed early on.
Score after 10 overs: KKR (82-2)
Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana were building something great but the latter departed right at the 10-over mark. Andre Russell, the big-hitter is here. With Gill and Russell at the crease, KKR can set a great chase for RR.
Score after 15 overs: KKR (120-5)
Things have declined for KKR. The team has lost their hard-hitting batsman without having set a decent target for RR whose batting prowess has scored a great deal of runs.
However, Eoin Morgan, along with Pat Cummins, is still at the crease and the fans must be hoping for boundaries from the England limited-overs skipper.
Score after 20 overs: KKR (174-6), RR needs 175 to win
Eoin Morgan turned up in the death overs to set a respectable target for KKR. Now, Dinesh Karthik and Co have to rely on their bowlers to take quick wickets and outplay RR's batting prowess.
The chase begins!
Jos Buttler and Steve Smith are at the crease. Smith is on strike. Narine will open the attack for KKR.
Score after 5 overs: RR (30-1), need 145 to win
KKR bowlers are doing a brilliant job in the powerplay. Steve Smith and Sanju Samson are already dismissed. Buttler is at the crease with Robin Uthappa. Tewatia and Archer are yet to bat. That means, there is still hope for RR fans!
Score after 10 overs: RR (61-5), need 114 to win
Things are not looking food for Rajasthan. Sanju Samson has been dismissed. Soon after, he was followed by Robin Uthappa and Riyan Parag. Tewatia and Tom Curran are at the crease.
Can we see another surprising Tewatia-inning? He has already scripted a maximum to his name.
Score after 15 overs: RR (90/8), need 85 to win
It is good as over for Rajasthan at this point.
Kolkata Knight Riders win by 37 runs!
Kolkata Knight Riders' bowlers ensured that key batsmen of Rajasthan Royals do not fire as the Dinesh Karthik led side clinched a 37 run win here on Wednesday.
Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, and Varun Chakravarthy took three wickets each. Pat Cummins who dismissed Steve Smith in his first over gave away just 13 runs. It was an all-around bowling performance by KKR as they restricted the Royals to 137/9 in 20 overs.
The Royals started their chase on the wrong foot as they lost skipper Smith in the second over itself. Even Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler failed to take the attack to the opposition as the batsmen looked to rush things rather than hold ends up and take the chase deep down.
Mavi dismissed Samson (8) in the fifth over while Buttler (21) departed in the seventh over as Mavi struck again. Buttler's wicket triggered a middle-order collapse as Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag and last match wonder Rahul Tewatia all failed to leave a mark.
Royals kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were soon found reeling at 81/7 with 93 still needed in the last six overs. Jofra Archer, who had a decent run with the bat in the recent games, too departed after hitting a six.
Tom Curran was the highest scorer for the Royals. He smashed a half-century which included three glorious sixes. In the death overs, Curran and tailender Ankit Rajput scored some sixes and reduced the margin of defeat.
Earlier, after being asked to bat first, KKR got off to a decent start. Openers Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine provided their side with a good start but Jaydev Unadkat got hold of the latter in the fifth over.
Nitish Rana then came out to bat and took the side over the 50-run mark, along with Gill, in the seventh over. The duo formed a 46-run partnership before Rahul Tewatia dismissed Rana (22).
Gill was just three runs short from completing his half-century when he was caught and bowled by Archer in the 12th over. Archer, in his next over, took the wicket of KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik (1), reducing the team to 106/4.
The fall of wickets did not stop as Russell was then sent back to the pavilion by Rajpoot in the 15th over.
Eoin Morgan and Pat Cummins then took the field but failed to form a good partnership as Curran dismissed Cummins (12). In the final over, Curran gave away 16 runs and enabled KKR to get past the 170 run mark.