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Salt-less Kolkata Knight Riders take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in power-hitting slugfest

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Ahmedabad, May 20 (PTI) High-flying Kolkata Knight Riders and an unpredictable Sunrisers Hyderabad, teams that have built their IPL 2024 campaign on power-hitting, will look to outmuscle each other in Qualifier 1 here on Tuesday.

If KKR were the first team to make IPL playoffs this year, SRH gave themselves a huge boost by inflicting a four-wicket loss on Punjab Kings on Sunday to eventually finish second with 17 points, ahead of Rajasthan Royals.

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While the two top teams from the 70-match league round have enjoyed some time off courtesy incessant rains during their respective clashes over last 10 days, the lack of turnaround time to compete in a high-intensity playoff game will also pose a unique challenge.

KKR and SRH will get only a day’s time to traverse thousands of kilometres and get here for the first half of the playoffs as they both featured on the final day of the league round on Sunday.

SRH would feel they have hit their strides following a comprehensive win over PBKS and having also got recent game-time, which isn’t the case for KKR whose last complete game was on May 11.

Shreyas Iyer’s KKR had won four games on the trot before rains washed away their last two league games and the two-time winners.

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Table-toppers KKR (19 points) will also have to fill in the huge void at the top with their second-highest run-scorer and wicketkeeper Phil Salt (435 runs) leaving the camp for national duties with England ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Salt had forged a devastating partnership with Sunil Narine (461) at the top and KKR were immensely benefited by their ultra-aggressive approach with the bat, backed up well by a potent middle-order even though skipper Iyer (287) has not had a major impact yet.

The washed out contest against RR in particular robbed KKR of an opportunity to give expected replacement Rahmanullah Gurbaz a go at the top with Narine, something that would have settled a few concerns certainly.

For KKR, the form of Nitish Rana adds more solidity to the middle-order while a fiery Andre Russell among the finishers promise them vital runs.

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In many ways, SRH match KKR’s firepower on paper and that is what adds more to the lure of this contest.

Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma have both got their runs at a strike rate exceeding 200 while inspiring their side to rewrite a few records.

Australian southpaw Head has in many ways redefined aggressiveness with the bat while also remaining successful (533 runs with one century and four fifties).

His fearlessness has also brought the best out of the young Indian batter Abhishek (467), who has clobbered an overall 41 sixes this IPL — 10 more than his overall tally of 31 in the previous six seasons.

SRH have also managed to find answers to a couple of questions which were lingering on for a while. At No 3, the 2016 winners have found a dependable option in Rahul Tripathi who can both accelerate as well as weather storms when bowlers are on-song.

Additionally, Heinrich Klaasen has rediscovered his form after a dip in the middle of the tournament. With a crucial knock of 42 against PBKS, Klaasen has signalled having found his mojo back, which only makes SRH even more formidable.

At Ahmedabad, as seen in the World Cup final last year, teams batting second have had more success, winning four out of six completed games while only twice the team which batted first could defend successfully.

Also, against the style of play for both these teams — to bury oppositions under mountains of runs — this venue has had only two scores of 200 or above in 12 innings, which means the bowlers will also have their say.

If KKR have a battery of spinners to back their fast bowlers led by Mitchell Starc, SRH’s pace bowling attack led by skipper Pat Cummins has time and again produced unified efforts to make their mark.

In their only meet earlier this season back in late March, KKR had pipped SRH by four runs in a high-scoring game.

Teams (from):

Kolkata Knight Riders: Shreyas Iyer (c), KS Bharat (wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Rinku Singh, Angkrish Raghuvanshi, Sherfane Rutherford, Manish Pandey, Andre Russell, Nitish Rana, Venkatesh Iyer, Anukul Roy, Ramandeep Singh, Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine, Vaibhav Arora, Chetan Sakariya, Harshit Rana, Suyash Sharma, Mitchell Starc, Dushmantha Chameera, Sakib Hussain, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Allah Ghazanfar.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Abhishek Sharma, Travis Head, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Aiden Markram, Abdul Samad, Nitish Reddy, Shahbaz Ahmed, Pat Cummins (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, T Natarajan, Mayank Markande, Umran Malik, Anmolpreet Singh, Glenn Phillips (wk), Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar, Upendra Yadav (wk), Jhathavedh Subramanyan, Sanvir Singh, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Marco Jansen, Akash Maharaj Singh, Mayank Agarwal.

Match starts at 7:30pm IST.

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