Photo: SportzPics

It was a thrilling contest in Saturday’s afternoon game at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders, with the 2014 champions ultimately winning it by two runs. The loss leaves KL Rahul’s franchise at the bottom of the table, as they unfortunately slumped to a fifth successive loss. 

Fielding first on the day, Kings XI Punjab started off brightly as Arshdeep Singh began his spell with a maiden over, carrying on from where he left off in the previous game. Rahul Tripathi felt the heat of that maiden over, and when he tried freeing his arms next up against Mohammed Shami, he lost his bearings, leaving KKR at 13/1 after three. 

Things got worse for the batting side, as new man Nitish Rana was run out by Nicholas Pooran in the next over, after scoring just one run. With two quick wickets, KXIP’s bowlers continued to exert the pressure, as Kolkata finished the powerplay with a meagre score of 25/2. 

Boundaries continued to be a premium even after the fielding restrictions were lifted, as the next three overs saw only one solitary four- a reverse sweep by Eoin Morgan against Mujeeb ur Rahman. The Afghani spinner was targeted again in his second over, as Morgan tonked him on the leg side for the first six of the evening. 

The southpaw tried to hit Ravi Bishnoi out of the park next over, but completely miscued his shot and gave an easy catch to Glenn Maxwell at long on, leaving his side at 64/3 after 11 overs. The wicket once again stymied KKR’s scoring rate, as they got just 11 runs in the next two overs before invoking their strategic timeout.

Post the timeout, the batting side switched gears as Mujeeb’s final over went for 16 runs, with Dinesh Karthik getting his first six of the evening. The KKR skipper continued to power through the Punjab bowling, as he got three fours off Arshdeep’s penultimate over to push the scoring rate to above seven an over. 

Having got his eye well set, Karthik went for the kill as he pounced on Chris Jordan’s bowling, getting two fours and a six to set his side up for a strong finish. Kings XI however found a way back, as Shubman Gill was run out by Mandeep Singh. KKR lost another in the next over, as the dangerous Andre Russell was out caught behind off Arshdeep’s bowling. 

The two quick wickets slightly derailed the KKR innings, as it was Kings XI Punjab who ended the innings strong, conceding just 18 of the last two overs to set themselves a target of 164. 

Turning Point

Sunil Narine’s penultimate over was the turning point, as he dismissed the well-set Nicholas Pooran, thereby triggering the collapse that cost KXIP the game. 

In reply, KXIP started cautiously, as skipper KL Rahul was handed a life early on thanks to a dropped catch from Russell. In the fourth over, Mayank Agarwal signalled his intent with two fours down the ground, and followed that up with a six over covers. Rahul too joined in the act, getting fours off consecutive overs to get his side to end the powerplay at 47 without loss. 

Post that, the spinners were introduced into the attack, as the KXIP openers continued to pierce the gaps efficiently, making sure the run rate under check while also ensuring the team didn’t lose any wickets. At the halfway mark of their innings, KXIP were 76/0, looking in complete control of the game. 

Agarwal once again freed his arms when pace was reintroduced, getting two fours off Kamlesh Nagarkoti’s second over. In the next over, both Agarwal and Rahul got to their fifties, as the team score got past 100 without any wickets lost. Prasidh Krishna got the first breakthrough for his team shortly after, as Agarwal miscued one to the fielder on the leg side. 

The wicket made for an interesting finish, as Punjab now needed 48 off the last five overs with a new player in Nicholas Pooran at the crease. Rahul remained as poised as ever, as he got a four and two doubles, while Pooran hit a four and a six to milk 19 runs off the 16th over. 

The southpaw however couldn’t be there to finish the innings for his side, as he tried to hit Sunil Narine out of the park but missed the ball, and ended up losing his bearings. New man Prabhsimran Singh also fell cheaply, caught by Nitish Rana to make for a very interesting finish. 

KL Rahul was the next to be dismissed, as an inside edge found the back of the stumps, leaving his team needing 14 of the last over with two new batsmen at the crease. Glenn Maxwell got two fours in the final over, but ultimately that proved to be just below what was was required, as it was the Kolkata Knight Riders who managed to win by two runs. 

Kings XI Punjab play their next game against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday, October 15.