In what was a masterclass in chasing a low score, after an early blip, the duo of Eoin Morgan and Shubman Gill put on a fine 76-run stand to help KKR beat Kings XI Punjab by seven wickets. Earlier, the KKR bowlers had done a wondrous job in containing Punjab to a total of just 135.
KXIP’s innings started off in 5th gear and progressively got slower and slower with time. A rapid start from Gayle provided hope, but his onslaught only lasted 9 balls, after which Rahul, too, departed as Punjab scored 46 runs in the powerplay. The next nine overs saw KXIP switch to Test mode, as Mayank and Maxwell combinedly scored just 30 runs off 41 balls to put the viewers to sleep. Urgency was the need of the hour in the last five and thankfully, KXIP got it from the bat of Pooran, who struck a fine 35-ball 47 to drag them to 135/6.
136 is one of those weird totals where a chasing team can be quickly caught in two minds and that is exactly what happened to KKR, who found themselves two down in no time. Cottrell bowled an impeccable spell upfront for KXIP, but while Narine and Rana succumbed, up to the challenge were Shubman Gill and Eoin Morgan. The duo showcased batsmanship of the highest order in their 76-run stand and in the blink of an eye, brought KKR down to 36 runs off the target. Morgan perished in over 12, but the calm heads of DK and Gill guided the Knight Riders home with seven wickets to spare.
Highs and Lows
In a game where moments of frenzy were few and far between, Sheldon Cottrell’s spell with the new ball felt like a breath of fresh air. In stark contrast to the KXIP batsmen, Cottrell breathed fire right from the word go and slid in a spell up top which read 2-0-6-1. One of the final spells of new-ball bowling witnessed in the SRL in a long, long time.
The excuse of a display from the KXIP batters in the middle overs was a low like no other. Despite having gotten off to a brisk start, Kings XI scored just 43 runs in 9 overs in the middle and their approach and intent served as a slap in the face to the concept of T20 cricket.
KKR’s 10/10 performance in the last three death overs killed any possibility of Punjab posting a big score and that, in turn, enabled them to take control of the game. After conceding 19 off the first 8 balls at the death, KKR could very well have lost their head, but their immaculate composure helped restrict KXIP to a below-par total that simply was never going to be enough on a good batting wicket.
Powerplay exploitation: Punjab 7/10 and Kolkata 7/10
When the Big Man is on fire, you give him the strike, sit back and enjoy and that is exactly what KL Rahul did for the three overs. Gayle unloaded on both Cummins and Prasidh for two overs, and got KXIP off to a flyer, but 9 balls was all his cameo lasted as the Aussie got the last laugh to send the Jamaican packing for 18. A scratchy Rahul, who scored a 15-ball 12, then followed suit a couple of overs later, to free himself from misery, and eventually, it was the familiar duo of Mayank and Maxwell who steered the side to 46/2 at the end of the powerplay.
136 is the kind of total that you would expect a team like KKR to chase down blindfolded, but their quest of doing so hit multiple roadblocks very early on. The side first lost Narine for a golden duck, and then Nitish Rana, too, soon after and it was only after Morgan walked in that they looked confident. Together with Gill, Morgan got KKR up back to their feet and somehow, the team scampered to 34/2 at the end of the powerplay.
Middle-overs manoeuvring: Punjab 1/10 and Kolkata 10/10
The middle-over phase was an un-Punjab’esque performance that no one quite saw coming. Much in contrast to Monday’s game, both Mayank and Maxwell struggled, big time, and flabbergastingly, they combinedly just 30 runs off the 41 balls they faced. Narine, Kuldeep and Russell put the chokehold on the batters and Punjab ended up scoring just ONE BOUNDARY in the entirety of the phase. Eventually, they ended the phase on 89/5, having scored JUST 43 runs in 9 overs.
Despite getting off to an underwhelming start, KKR knew that they were still favourites and that all they had to do was not lose wickets. And the ever-so-elegant duo of Morgan and Gill did that and more, as they blunted the KXIP spinners with some exquisite batting in the middle. Through a perfect blend of clever running and occasional boundary hitting, the duo brought down the required rate to run-a-ball in just the 10th over to help KKR assert their dominance. Despite losing Morgan in the 12th over, the Knight Riders ended up scoring 92 runs in the middle and shut the door for any KXIP comeback. Rather, to be precise, they pocketed the game in this phase.
Death bowling:- Kolkata 8/10 and Punjab na/10
The picture-perfect display in the middle overs meant that the KKR bowlers had some leeway at the death, but the warning signs of the hard-work in the middle going to waste were there very early on, as Pooran and Gowtham accumulated 19 runs off the first 8 balls. But led by Cummins, KKR staged a fine comeback at the death as they conceded just one boundary off the last 3 overs to restrict KXIP to 135/6; 46 runs were taken off the last five.
10 runs was all KKR needed in the last five overs and it took them all of 7 balls to complete the rout. Gill slayed the bowlers to stay unbeaten on 66* and guide his side home. No point discussing KXIP’s bowling in this phase, to be honest.
Match Frenzy O Meter - Bad
Barring the swift partnership between Gill and Morgan, seldom were there any passages of play that were interesting or entertaining. It was a drab, one-sided encounter that served as a bad advertisement for the format.
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