Leading from the front, a stellar KL Rahul half century ensured that Punjab Kings got back to winning ways, beating Kolkata Knight Riders by five wickets on Friday at the Dubai International Stadium. Punjab Kings performed admirably with the ball, and Shahrukh Khan ensured there were no hiccups with the bat this time around as he sealed the game with a six in the final over.

Bowling first, Punjab Kings started off with the spin of Fabian Allen, but the move backfired as opposition opener Venkatesh Iyer picked up two boundaries in the very first over. His partner in crime Shubman Gill also got in on the act, picking up a four through cover point against Mohammed Shami.

Punjab Kings though struck in the third over, as a superb in-swinging delivery from Arshdeep Singh castled Gill, leaving the batting team at 23/1. KKR didn’t let the wicket affect their scoring rate, as they picked up a boundary apiece in the next two overs. Iyer then welcomed Nathan Ellis into the attack with two consecutive fours, as his team ended the powerplay with 48 runs on the board. 

The southpaw continued to play his shots ever after the powerplay, getting a four either side of the wicket against Allen and Ravi Bishnoi. New man Rahul Tripathi added the first six of the evening shortly after, as the batting side raced away to 73/1 after nine overs. 

Punjab Kings eagerly needed a wicket, and Bishnoi answered their prayers as he forced Tripathi to miscue one straight to the fielder in the deep. Iyer though remained undeterred, as he slammed Allen for a big six over deep mid-wicket, while getting to his second half century of IPL 2021 in the same over. 

The southpaw continued to take on the medium pace of Ellis, getting two more boundaries off it to push the team score to 115/2 after 14 overs. Once again, it was Bishnoi who provided the breakthrough, as the dangerous Iyer who was out caught in the deep, with the leg spinner finishing with stellar figures of 2/22.  

One wicket brought another, as Mohammed Shami returned to the attack and claimed the wicket of opposition skipper Eoin Morgan, leaving the batting side at 125/4. New man Nitish Rana however once again turned the heat on, getting a six off Ellis and Arshdeep Singh. The left-arm pacer though replied back with great gusto, as his knuckle ball forced Rana into a rash shot which found the fielder in the deep.  

In the penultimate over, Shami hit the stumps, but on the non striker’s end to get Tim Seifert run out. Arshdeep Singh then delivered a tidy final over of the innings, conceding just seven runs while dismissing Dinesh Karthik to restrict the Knight Riders to 165/7. 

Turning Point

Venkatesh Iyer’s wicket in the 15th over proved to be the turning point, as the southpaw was looking good to score big and take the game away from Punjab Kings.

Punjab Kings started off with aplomb, as Mayank Agarwal picked up a four through covers in the very first over. Agarwal picked a four and a six straight off the bowler’s head in the overs that followed, as the team score climbed to 30 for no loss after four. 

The 30-year-old also targeted Sunil Narine when he came into the attack, hitting him for a six down the ground to get the team score at 46/0 after the powerplay. Varun Chakravarthy though slowed down the scoring rate for the Kings, as he conceded just eight runs of his first two overs. 

Agarwal however targeted the bowlers from the other end, as he picked up a six off the bowling of Sunil Narine and Venkatesh Iyer, putting PBKS in the driving seat. The 9th over saw KKR get a route back in the game, as Chakravarthy dismissed Agarwal, thanks to a stunning catch at covers by Morgan. 

The chasing side brought Nicholas Pooran to replace Agarwal, and the southpaw immediately charged at the mystery spinner, hitting him for a huge six over wide long on. Chakravarthy though dismissed Pooran the very next ball, as the West Indian batter sliced one into Shivam Mavi’s hand, leaving the equation at 85/2 after 11 overs. 

KL Rahul, who had been playing second fiddle for most of the innings, got into his groove when part-timer Venkatesh Iyer was re-introduced, as he hit the seamer for a flat six on the leg side. The Punjab Kings skipper added a second six a couple of overs later, getting his first fifty of the UAE leg of the IPL with that shot. 

Rahul’s partner in crime Aiden Markram also struck his first maximum in the next over, hitting Narine for a humongous 95m six over mid-wicket. The Protean batter though only found the fielder in the deep the next time he tried a big hit, leaving his team needing 35 off the last four. 

New man Deepak Hooda couldn’t get going on the night, as he was out caught in the deep trying to take on Sunil Narine. Hooda was replaced by Shahrukh Khan, who slammed a six of just his second delivery to push the team score to 142/4 after 17 overs. The Tamil Nadu batsman added another boundary in the next over against Tim Southee, leaving his team needing 15 off the final two. 

KL Rahul picked up two fours in that penultimate over, to take the game to the final over where PBKS would need five runs. The final over once again brought some drama, as Rahul was out caught at long-off. Shahrukh Khan though ensured there weren’t any ending troubles this time, as he finished the innings off with a six, keeping his franchise in the competition to fight another day.

Punjab Kings play their next game on Sunday against Royal Challengers Bangalore.