The inspirational comeback tale continues for Kings XI Punjab as they on Monday recorded their fifth straight win, three of which came against the present top three in the points table. And the fifth against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, defeating the two-time IPL winners by an emphatic eight wickets.
After a clinical bowling performance saw KKR being restricted to 149 for the loss of nine wickets, captain KL Rahul and Mandeep Singh got KXIP off to a promising start. The ball did show a hint of movement, far less than the degree witnessed in the first innings, but the opening pair cautiously negated the trouble to add 47 on the board before Varun Chakravarthy trapped Rahul in front of leg for 28.
The delivery turned a bit more in and had in fact missed the leg stump. Rahul walked down to Mandeep to have a discussion before making his way back to the dug-out. The replays later revealed that it would have been the umpire's call on hitting the stumps.
Spin has been KKR's biggest strength this season and hence Eoin Morgan persisted with Sunil Narine and Varun from both ends especially with Chris Gayle walking in next. Narine has dismissed him twice in eight innings with Gayle having a strike rate of 82.75.
Gayle has batted outside the opening position, before IPL 2020, eight times in T20 cricket. But the strategy has been working well for KXIP, who have retained Gayle as their No.3 even after Mayank Agarwal's injury as the opportunity allows him to tame the slower bowlers and the spinners and he has done incredibly well against the second variety registering a strike rate of 164.58 in this season.
Mandeep, on the other hand, who lost his father last week, stayed calm and composed amid the struggling conditions at the start of the innings before producing an outstanding half-century.
Kings XI Punjab dished out a disciplined bowling show, especially at the back-end, to restrict Kolkata Knight Riders to a modest 149/9 in their Indian Premier League match.
Mohammed Shami (3/35) was the pick of the Kings XI Punjab bowlers while leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi (2/20) and Chris Jordan (2/25) claimed two wickets apiece to put brakes on KKR who were invited to bat first.
After a familiar jittery start, KKR got the momentum going with opener Shubman Gill (57 off 45 balls) and skipper Eoin Morgan (40) firing all cylinders inside the Powerplay.
But KXIP's last match hero Jordan pulled things back for his team by brilliantly mixing up his slow deliveries, while Bishnoi took the prized scalp of Morgan after KKR reached 54/3 inside the Powerplay.
Morgan holed out to Murugan Ashwin at deep square leg as Bishoi ended the free-flowing partnership for 81 runs from 47 balls and from then onwards KKR struggled to get going.
Earlier, KKR had another messy start and looked in deep trouble at 10/3 inside two overs after Shami's exceptional first over.
But Morgan and Gill counter-attacked beautifully, getting the boundaries and sixes. The duo made full use of the Powerplay restrictions and Shami conceded 21 runs from his third over.
Gill showed his sheer class and timing, smacking Shami for back-to-back sixes.
This was after opener Nitish Rana got out for a golden duck and Shami dismissing Rahul Tripathi (7) and Dinesh Karthik (0) in the space of three balls.
(with PTI inputs)