Friday, May 31, 2024

Royals brace for Narine spin treat as Kolkata eye top spot


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Kolkata, April 15: Rajasthan Royals’ star-studded batting will face the serious challenge of decoding Sunil Narine’s mystery at Eden Gardens when they take on two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders in a top-of-the-table IPL clash here on Tuesday.
Narine, who is one month shy of turning 36, had played a pivotal role in KKR’s twin triumphs under former skipper Gautam Gambhir in 2012 and 2014.
Ever since joining the side way back in 2012, Narine has sizzled at Eden Gardens with his crafty bowling, proving to a big threat to opposition batters.
Now after reuniting with Gambhir, who returned to the team as their mentor, Narine dished out an allround show, reigniting their title hopes again and a win against RR will hand them the pole position in the 10-team standings ahead of the halfway stage of the season.
His 1/19 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad or 1/17 against Lucknow Super Giants may have failed to grab attention but those eight overs where he did not concede a single boundary made all the difference in the end for KKR.
Phil Salt may have walked away with the player-of-the-match award in their solid eight-wicket win over LSG here on Sunday, but it was Narine, who choked LSG in the middle overs to limit them to a below-par 161 for 7.
Come Tuesday, the likes of Sanju Samson, Riyan Parag and Shimron Hetmyer – who all have struck at the rate of more than 155 this season – will be up against the Narine challenge.
It remains to be seen if Jos Buttler is fit to be included in the playing XI after missing their last fixture against Punjab Kings.
With his ability to express himself at the top, Narine, who has a strike-rate of 183.51 and averages 33-plus this season, has a Rashid Khan-like aura at KKR.
Their IPL record buy Mitchell Starc has also shut all the noise to return to his elements, claiming two wickets in the last over for his 3/28 against LSG.
In such a scenario, the top-of-the-table contest may well boil down to KKR’s bowling versus RR’s batting.
KKR’s only weaklink could be their skipper Shreyas Iyer’s poor form with the bat.
Even though he remained unbeaten on a run-a-ball 38 in their 162-run chase against LSG, Shreyas looked tentative both against the pacers and spinners and KKR’s batting may well get exposed if RR manage to give early breakthroughs.
KKR’s batting has largely depended this season on Salt-Narine’s fireworks at the top and Andre Russell’s blitz at the death, as their Indian batters have not been tested much.
Rinku Singh has had a quiet season with 63 runs from four innings and has not got much opportunity, while team vice-captain Nitish Rana is sidelined with an injury.
RR have a formidable bowling lineup in Trent Boult, Avesh Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal and Keshav Maharaj, while it remains to be seen if Ravichandran Ashwin is fit for the match.(PTI)


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