The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have gotten most of their wins this season defending par or even slightly sub-par totals with good bowling performances. After having miraculously prevailed against the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their previous encounter, there was to be no magic on this occasion as they were comfortably beaten by 8 wickets at Sharjah.
KKR suffered yet another top-order collapse - unfortunately one of the most constant themes of their campaign this season - with Shubman Gill breaking his rut to score a composed half-century.
Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Tripathi's poor form continued, while there were no repeat heroics from either Nitish Rana or Sunil Narine. After taking apart one of the best attacks in the tournament, the former fell to a very average delivery by part-timer Glenn Maxwell to be dismissed first ball.
Eoin Morgan has found ways to contribute handy runs consistently, and Lockie Ferguson too proved his mettle with the bat to take KKR to 149/9. KXIP's awfully sedate start - they were just 47/1 after 8 over in the chase, with Mandeep Singh at 2 off 10 early on - seemed to entertain the possibility of a difficult chase.
But Chris Gayle enjoyed himself against an opposition he has a good record against. On the back of a brisk half-century by Gayle and a steady one by Mandeep, KXIP romped to their fifth consecutive win and snatched the fourth spot from KKR.
In one of the most important games of the tournament - all of KXIP, SRH and RR would have been in deep trouble had KKR won the match - several players were unable to rise to the occasion. Here's a look at the top three underperformers.
#3 Rahul Tripathi (KKR)
Rahul Tripathi stormed his way into the KKR batting lineup after two excellent performances in his first two chances - a fighting 36 off 16 in a tall chase followed by an 81 as an opener. In all the games since, he has been found wanting against quality pace bowling during the first six overs.
Though he did strike a six, Tripathi fell to KXIP's Mohammed Shami off his fourth ball. He looked at sea against the India all-format bowler and edged an away-swinger to hand the keeper a simple catch. In their push for a playoff berth that is drawing further from their grasp, KKR need Tripathi to justify his place in the side and push on.
#2 Dinesh Karthik (KKR)
Dinesh Karthik let go of the captaincy midway through the season to focus on his batting contributions. The script hasn't quite gone to plan since then as the former skipper has been found wanting with the bat, having scored as many as eight single digit scores in a poor individual season.
Despite most of those early dismissals taking place when Karthik has been sent in during the first 10 overs, the team management persisted with sending him in early. Just two balls after Tripathi's dismissal, the wicket-keeper too edged behind, unable to handle the KXIP seamer's movement off the pitch.
KKR might reserve Karthik for the finisher's role to get more out of his season.
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#1 Nitish Rana (KKR)
After a remarkable innings last game where he carried his bat and scored 81, Nitish Rana was sent to open the innings once again. KXIP looked to exploit the match-up by bowling off-spinner Glenn Maxwell to the southpaw early on. While Rana had been belligerent against R Ashwin's off-spin, he fell to a meek dismissal here, justifying the KXIP captain's punt.
A sweep which intended to clear the infield only ended up being a simple catch to the short fine-leg fielder. KKR have not used Rana as an all-rounder this season, thus making his contributions with the bat more crucial. In two potentially must-win games up ahead, Rana needs to click for KKR to have a chance.
Published 27 Oct 2020, 09:27 IST