Knights look to kick-start campaign by slaying Lions
Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will look to improve their record against Gujarat Lions and start their Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign with a win when the two sides meet at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday.
In 2016, KKR lost both their matches to the Lions with the Suresh Raina-skippered franchise registering a comfortable six-wicket victory here.
After restricting the Gautam Gambhir led Knight Riders to a pedestrian 124/8 in 20 overs, the Lions just lost four wickets in their run chase with Raina leading from the front with an unbeaten 53.
At the Eden Gardens earlier last season, the Lions had won by five wickets.
Riding on a superlative league stage performance, Lions topped the points table only to return second best in both the qualifiers against Royal Challengers Bangalore and eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad.
KKR on the other hand, finished fourth in the league stage, losing to Sunrisers in the eliminator.
This season, while the Lions will look to outdo their first stint, which was by all means a successful one, KKR would pull no punches in performing better than last time where their sojourn was marked by inconsistency.
Lions have a top-heavy look to their batting lineup with the likes of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Suresh Raina, and Dinesh Karthik expected to start.
To put things into perspective, the Lions were the only team last year to score 70 or more in the Powerplay - a feat they achieved four times.
Five of their batsmen -- Raina, Finch, McCullum, Karthik and Smith -- aggregated more than 300 runs. None of their rivals had more than three batsmen who aggregated 300 and above.
But on Friday, Lions will miss the services of West Indian T20 specialist all-rounder Dwayne Bravo who is injured and man-of-the-series in the India-Australia Test series Ravindra Jadeja who is cooling his heels after a long Test season.
The Lions will pin hopes on Karthik who was the cornerstone of Tamil Nadu's success in the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy where they finished winners. Karthik amassed 854 runs in 12 innings - the fourth-highest in a List A season in India. He notched up match-winning centuries in both finals, in addition to four half-centuries in his last nine 50-over games.