IPL: KKR vs GT, Gujarat stands in way of Kolkata's revival
IPL: KKR vs GT,  Gujarat stands in way of Kolkata's revival

KOLKATA: On April 29, when the two teams square off in Kolkata for the IPL, a resurgent Gujarat Titans will stand in the way of the Kolkata Knight Riders' ambitions for a comeback thanks to their potent bowling unit.

With a convincing victory at Bangalore, the home team's sputtering season got back on track after they fired in unison to end their four-match losing streak.

The low-key KKR team, without their regular commander Shreyas Iyer, may have unearthed a trump card in Jason Roy in a season where their Caribbean star combo of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine have yet to shine.

With a furious half-century, the Englishman set the tone, allowing players like Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, and David Wiese to seize the initiative and post a winning total of 201 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Roy, who has played in just six of KKR's matches this year, has three games with scores of 43, 61, and 56. He will once again be the focal point of the team's batting.

The victory moved KKR up to seventh place in the standings among the 10 teams, but they still have a long way to go before the playoffs.

From this point forward, KKR (six points) will need to win at least five of their final six games in order to guarantee a playoff spot.

Two of KKR's six games are away, including one in Chennai, so captain Rana and coach Chandrakant Pandit will have their work cut out for them when they face the Pandya-led reigning champions.

Everyone has taken notice of Pandya's flawless T20 blueprint and his ability to win close games, especially after they failed to contain the Lucknow Super Giants while holding them to a pitiful 135 for 6.

Since taking over as captain in January 2022, Pandya has been a revelation, winning 23 of his team's 31 games and posting a 76.67 percent victory rate. With a game left to play, GT (10 points from seven games) is in position to earn a second straight playoff berth. GT is trailing the leaders Rajasthan Royals on net run rate.

Indian pacer Mohammad Shami, who along with Pandya has created enough commotion in the powerplay, is one of the Titans' alluring bowlers.With the slight movement of his fingers during the delivery, Shami made it seem so simple, and he will enjoy the challenge when he returns to his "home ground."

Pandya has also been picking up the pace, as evidenced by the 144kph delivery he used to bowl Rohit Sharma out for the Mumbai Indians.

However, facing off against the GT spinners, led by the cunning Rashid Khan, who has found a new ally in his countryman Noor Ahmed, will present the biggest challenge for players like Rana and the in-form Rinku.

The 20-year-old left-arm spinner has been unrelenting, especially in the middle overs, following in Rashid's footsteps.

When they restricted MI to 152 for 9 in their pursuit of 208, it was on full display. Noor returned with figures of three for 37, including the prized scalp of Suryakumar Yadav.

GT also boasts a daring batting team with the powerhitting quartet of David Miller, Abhinav Manohar, and Rahul Tewatia in the bottom-half and the in-form Shubman Gill (three fifties) at the top.

The Titans, who will also have "home boy" Wriddhiman Saha eager to fire at the top with Gill, will present a challenge for the KKR spin force, so it will be interesting to see how they handle it.

The winning combo of Varun Chakravarthy and Suyash Sharma, a rookie legspinner, have been splitting the spin job as veteran Narine has failed to pick up a wicket in five games.

The pace bowling department does not instill much confidence either, as KKR is still looking for the ideal lineup, with just Umesh Yadav being a constant in all eight of their games.Vaibhav Arora, Kulwant Khejroliya, and David Wiese received their debuts from them, while musical chairs were played by others like Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, and Shardul Thakur.

However, none of them have made an impression, not even the seasoned Indian pacer Yadav. But Indian all-rounder Thakur, who has a game-winning strike to his credit, may be called upon by KKR for  the match.

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