Kolkata Knight Riders stayed in contention to make the last available spot for the VIVO IPL 2019 Playoffs, but ended Kings XI Punjab’s hopes with a handsome seven-wicket victory in Mohali on Friday night. Needing a tough 184 for victory after electing to field, KKR were powered by a fluent half-century from opener Shubman Gill, who stayed not out on 65 to steer his side to victory with 12 balls to spare.
KKR were given a solid start by openers Gill and Chris Lynn, who powered the side to 62 in the Powerplay, with Lynn falling off the last ball of the sixth over, before he had smacked 46 from just 22 balls. R Ashwin and Mohammed Shami took the wickets of Robbie Uthappa (22 off 14 balls) and Andre Russell (24 off 14 balls) respectively, but couldn’t find any more breakthroughs as captain Dinesh Karthik finished off the game with a rapid 21* from just 9 balls.
Earlier, after being put into bat, Kings XI Punjab suffered early setbacks with both openers KL Rahul and Chris Gayle departing without making much of an impact on a must-win game for the home side. KKR’s opening bowler Sandeep Warrier made both breakthroughs – Rahul was caught expertly by Chris Lynn running back at mid-on while chatting with television commentators, while Gayle picked out Shubman Gill at the midwicket boundary in his next over.
It wasn’t until the arrival of wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran that KXIP managed to get some momentum into their innings. Pooran displayed some of his attacking prowess against both pace and spin, and added 69 runs for the third wicket with Mayank Agarwal, who barely got strike during their partnership. What once looked like opportunity lost, KXIP made up for it through handy contributions from their middle order.
Pooran fell for a 27-ball 48, Agarwal added 36 from 26, before Mandeep Singh and Sam Curran belted handy boundaries towards the end to take KXIP’s total to a competitive 183-6, including Harry Gurney’s 20th over in which Curran took 22 runs to bring up a half-century off 23 balls.
Standout batting performance
Shubman Gill has risen tremendously in stature all through the 2019 VIVO IPL, and after essaying the role of a finisher in earlier fixtures, he has flourished in his role as an opener. Gill was seldom hurried into his strokes even on Friday evening, driving calmly and picking gaps for boundaries instead of muscling the ball like his peers. Gill raced to his half-century off just 36 balls, and played the support role when the likes of Russell and Karthik were at the crease, easing the ball into gaps to rotate the strike. Still only 19, Gill has shown maturity beyond his years and produced his third half-century this season to take his side home.
The only other significant contribution Sam Curran had made to the Kings XI Punjab’s cause came on his VIVO IPL debut against Delhi Capitals when he had scored 20 with the bat and taken 4-11 with the ball – including a hat-trick – to spark an emphatic come-from-behind victory. After missing a few fixtures, Curran returned to make an immediate impact, this time with the bat, as he struck an unbeaten 55 from just 24 balls to power KXIP to a strong 183-6.
Notable Support Act – Batting
Chris Lynn’s impact at the top of the order for KKR has been well-known, and the Australian opener once again gave such a strong start to his team that it quite literally blew the contest open in the Powerplay overs itself. What looked like a stiff target at the beginning was reduced to a regulation run chase after the Powerplay overs, as Lynn had smacked five fours and three sixes on his way to 46 from just 22 balls, at a strike rate of 209, to take the game away from the hosts.
Nicholas Pooran has had a string of strong performances for KXIP down the order, right from the defeat at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore, where he played another stellar innings. With the early wickets of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, Pooran walked in with KXIP going nowhere in the Powerplay, and he decided to take the bowlers on almost immediately, boosting the run rate of the home side. His 27-ball 48 contained three fours and four sixes, before he eventually perished to the part-timer Nitish Rana in the 11th over.
Standout bowling performance
Sandeep Warrier’s only second game for KKR this season turned out to be a fruitful one for the Kerala player, as he removed the explosive opening duo of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle in successive overs in the Powerplay. Warrier lured Rahul into playing a false stroke in the third over, which was caught by Chris Lynn pedaling backwards, before he got Gayle to mis-time his pull shot straight to midwicket in the fifth over, before finishing with figures of 2-31 from his four overs.
Notable Support Act – Bowling
Despite not figuring in the wickets column, Sunil Narine’s overs continued to be gold dust for KKR. The West Indian bowled his overs under the pump with Nicholas Pooran attacking him, and yet came away unscathed with 0-29 from his four overs. He also became the most capped KKR player during the game.
Kings XI Punjab: 183-6 (Sam Curran 55*, Nicholas Pooran 48, Mayank Agarwal 36, Sandeep Warrier 2-31) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders: 185-3 in 18 overs (Shubman Gill 65*, Chris Lynn 46, Andre Russell 24, Mohammed Shami 1-15) by 7 wickets.
Stat of the Match: This was Andre Russell’s 300th T20 match.
Man of the Match: Shubman Gill, for his unbeaten 65 off 49 balls.