Photo: SportzPics

Kings XI Punjab made light work of their chase on Monday, October 26 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, as Mandeep Singh and Chris Gayle got fifties apiece to give their side a resounding win over Kolkata Knight Riders. The win sees KL Rahul’s side get into the top four of the 2020 Dream11 Indian Premier League points table, and now have their fortunes in their own hands to finish the league stages in that position. 

Fielding first, Kings XI got off to the perfect start as Glenn Maxwell picked up a wicket in the very first over, with Nitish Rana walking back without scoring. It didn’t take long for the wickets column to double, as Mohammed Shami got the better of new man Rahul Tripathi with a well guided out-swinger. 

Things got even better for the fielding side as Shami finished his first over with a ball that swung late, taking the faintest edge off Dinesh Karthik’s willow, leaving KKR at 10/3 after two overs. Despite the loss of wickets, KKR skipper Eoin Morgan wasn’t afraid to play his shots, getting three quick boundaries of the pacers to put the pressure back on the bowlers. Shubman Gill at the other end also joined in the act, as he finished the powerplay with two sixes on the leg side. 

Morgan continued to keep his foot on the medal, making the most of the short boundaries by getting a four and a six of the subsequent Maxwell over. Both KKR batsmen got a six apiece of Murugan Ashwin’s first over of the evening, pushing the run rate to 10 an over. 

Kings XI Punjab desperately needed a wicket to avoid the game slipping away from their control, and youngster Ravi Bishnoi provided the answer in his very first over, sending Morgan back to the pavilion. Another wicket followed soon, as the dangerous Sunil Narine dragged one back onto his stumps off Chris Jordan’s bowling, to leave KKR at 101/5 after 11 overs. 

The wickets dampened KKR’s scoring rate, and the fielding side’s leg spinners began growing in confidence, as they ensured no boundaries came of the three subsequent overs. Kamlesh Nagarkoti was forced to play a big shot to try and augment the scoring rate once again, but completely misread Murugan’s googly and saw his stumps dislodged. 

That wicket was followed by a maiden over by Bishnoi, who also managed to dismiss new batsman Pat Cummins to end with exceptional figures of 2/21 despite playing on a small ground. KKR though continued to fight, as tailender Lockie Ferguson slammed two fours on the off-side off Jordan’s penultimate over. 

Their last recognised batsmen Shubman Gill though perished in the 19th, out caught in the deep against the bowling of Shami. Chris Jordan followed suit with a tight final over, conceding just five runs and picking up a wicket to ensure his side needed a sub-par 150 to win on the night. 

Turning Point

Ravi Bishnoi’s first over saw him pick the wicket of Eoin Morgan, and KKR never really recovered from that, giving the chasing side a subpar target of just 150. 

In reply, Kings XI got a boundary of the very first ball as captain Rahul swatted one away between point and gully. The IPL Orange Cap holder picked up two more fours shortly after as he looked in control against the KKR pacers. Rahul’s partner Mandeep Singh was struggling to find the middle of his bat in the beginning, but turned the tide in Cummins’ third over to get a four and a six and keep the team score at a run a ball. 

Post the powerplay however the KKR spinners bowled a couple of tight overs, and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy managed to pick the wicket of Rahul, trapping him plumb in front of the wicket with a ball that kept low. The spinners continued to keep things economical, building the pressure on the chasing team. 

Universe Boss Chris Gayle though nonchalantly hit two big sixes on the leg side off Chakravarthy’s third over, pulling down the asking rate. He followed that up with another maximum off Narine’s bowling in the next over, to get past a 1000 runs in the IPL as a KXIP player. 

Gayle’s explosive batting augmented Mandeep’s confidence as well, who welcomed Lockie Ferguson into the attack with a four over mid-wicket. At the other end, the 41-year-old further soothed the nerves of his fans with a four and a six in quick succession to bump up the team score to 104/1 after 14 overs. 

While Gayle tormented the bowlers with his brute force, Mandeep Singh discreetly went about his business at the other to get to his fifty in the 15th over. The 28-year-old got two boundaries as well in the same over, to leave his franchise needing just 27 of the last four. 

Eoin Morgan tried reintroducing Ferguson into the attack to pick up a wicket, but Chris Gayle thwarted those plans by smashing the Kiwi pacer for a four and a six, getting his second fifty for IPL 2020. 

With the equation reduced to less than a run a ball, Mandeep brought out a few glory shots with a stunning cover drive and a six over mid-wicket against the most expensive IPL player- Pat Cummins. KXIP needed just three of the last two overs, but Gayle couldn’t stay for the finish, as a slower bouncer from Ferguson did the trick for Kolkata. 

Nevertheless, the game was in the bag; and Nicholas Pooran and Mandeep got there in singles, as KXIP picked up an emphatic eight-wicket victory. Kings XI will play their next game on Friday, October 30 against Rajasthan Royals.