A tale of two Sharmas
Everything pointed to an easy Kolkata Knight Riders win. The modest total they had to chase, the perceived lack of firepower in the Kings XI Punjab bowling, and the whirlwind start the visitors got. But just when the obituaries were being penned for another stop-start campaign of the Mohali outfit, they came roaring back with an inspired performance in the field to keep their hopes alive for a spot in the playoffs. (Results | Fixtures | Points Table)
While the fightback started with the spin trio — Axar Patel, Rahul Tewatia and Swapnil Singh — who conceded just 65 in the 10 overs between them, it was up to the seam pairing of Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma to step up when it mattered most.
With 50 needed off the final 5 overs, and a powerhouse batting line-up having 7 wickets in the shed, the visitors were heavy favourites. But Sandeep and Mohit, who bowled four of these overs, conceded just 27. With a little help from Kiwi pacer Matt Henry, making his IPL debut, who bowled the 18th over for just 8 runs getting the crucial wicket of Manish Pandey, there were just two fours and a six in the final 30 balls without any no-balls and wides to boot.
There has been a lament over the years about Indian seamers going around the park in the slog overs. What Mohit and Sandeep achieved on Tuesday should serve as a blueprint in this regard. They nailed yorker after yorker at the batsmen’s toes and the base of the stumps and also fooled the big hitters with clever changes of pace and the knuckle ball.
Spinners put foot in the door
KKR were running away with the match. After amassing 61/1 in the Powerplay, they needed less than 8 runs an over. Batsmen like Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Pandey have made mincemeat of such targets in the tournament till now, but they could not counter the unheralded spin trio when the field spread and the bigger boundaries at the PCA Stadium became tougher to reach. The next three overs went for just 15 — without any boundaries — before the game turned. Gambhir holed out aff the leg-spinner Tewatia after a painstaking 8.
Robin Uthappa knows only one way to bat, and when he was spectacularly pouched by Axar in the outfield two balls later, the contest was officially on. With consecutive overs going for 3, 3 and 4, the Knight Riders had a fight on their hands.
A tale of two Chrises
Not many expected Chris Lynn to return to the IPL after a bad shoulder injury in the first week of the tournament itself. His baseball-style hitting was compensated to a large extent by the surprise package of Sunil Narine. But when the Australian returned to the line-up, it seemed he had never been away.
On Tuesday, Lynn seemed to be batting on a different pitch altogether. While he smashed 84 off just 52 balls, his teammates could manage only 69 in 68 balls. Anything with a bit of width was severely punished, while the length balls and those of a shorter variety were also dealt with brutally.
The Queenslander found the going a bit tougher as the bowlers found their mark more regularly later on. He would have hoped for a lot more help from his fellow Knights, which was not forthcoming on the day.
Strange enough, KKR’s capitulation came against a team that was depleted and didn’t put enough on the board. With two-ton hero Hashim Amla leaving for national commitments and Antipodeans Shaun Marsh and Martin Guptill not contributing much on the night, the Kings XI needed their skipper Glenn Maxwell to play the star act. He threatened to do so for a while, but left much earlier than the home fans would have wanted.
Colin de Grandhomme was swatted for two consecutive sixes — one over long-on and a short one over deep midwicket. Then Ankit Rajpoot was pulled for four.
Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav had foxed the Australian in the Dharamsala Test, and when he came on, Maxwell deposited him for two big sixes over the leg-side. But the Kings XI skipper was done in by his greed and a clever change of pace on the next ball. Kuldeep tossed one up a bit wider, and Maxwell couldn’t hold himself as Chris Woakes took a splendid catch at wide long-on.
Englishman Chris Woakes goes about his business in the Knight Riders squad without much fuss. When he isn’t taking wickets, he is generally keeping the scoring rate down and can be relied upon to produce the odd big hit.
He came after the Powerplay and made his presence felt. His first over went for 4 singles, the second for just three in which he castled Marsh with one that seamed back late. His third over went for 4, including a bye, and it was only in the 19th over that Tewatia managed to get two boundaries off him. Figures for 2/20 in 4 overs would count for a good day’s work, but it did not come in a winning cause on Tuesday.