The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) seemed to have turned up with a plan. Noting the slowness in the Sharjah pitch, they served up a number of slower ones, tying down the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and not allowing for the boundaries to flow. Their swapping of Sunil Narine for Tom Banton seemed to have worked, given that the bowling was doing well in the mystery spinner's absence.
Just when it seemed to be rolling fine, in came AB de Villiers to remind everyone about the short boundaries at the venue. His 73* off 33 smashed the pulp out of the KKR pacers' figures, and ensured that Andre Russell and the rest of the bowling had a night to forget.
KKR sent Tom Banton to open, but he looked subdued and listless in his 12-ball 8. It was merely the start of a woeful downhill slide for the Men in Purple. Shubman Gill, the only batsman who looked in some control, ran himself out while feeling the pressure.
KKR's much-vaunted batting order, packed to the brim with batsmen capable of matching the required run rate, collapsed like a house of cards. Every new batsman was choked by the accurate pacers and unerring spinners that RCB threw at them.
Ultimately, KKR prevented themselves from being bowled out, but it was a shame that it was the only kind of victory they would enjoy over their opposition.
KKR's Varun Chakravarthy was a standout with the ball, as were RCB's spinners. In a strange match with some individual heroes in the first half and collective team failures and successes in the second, here are the three players who disappointed the most.
#3 Pat Cummins (KKR)
In this KKR team, apart from some late-order hitting on his day, Cummins has essentially one job - take wickets and bowl economically in the powerplay.
Not for the first time in this edition, he misread the pitch and allowed the RCB openers to time some exquisite boundaries off him. Even when Cummins came back to bowl just before the death, he lacked the cutting edge needed from a premier pacer.
With very few wickets to show for in his 7 matches for KKR, Cummins has got to do more with ball in hand, although he has his berth locked down to some extent due to his international experience and all-round prowess.
The Australian's inability to strike has mostly been masked by the ability of the rest to pull things back, but here it was laid bare. He followed his 0/38 with a single run with the bat as his team hurtled to a loss.
#2 Andre Russell (KKR)
In the KKR lineup, Russell shoulders significantly more responsibility than Cummins. Not only is he expected to be lethal with his bouncers and yorkers at the death, but he is also tasked with blowing away oppositions with the bat. This IPL has, strangely enough, been treated to some displays of the former while the latter is entirely absent for KKR.
After recovering from a worrying injury, Russell looked good in his first two overs, as he was economical, produced a chance that was shelled, and accounted for Padikkal's wicket later on.
It was in the death overs that he was picked apart by a rampaging AB de Villiers to finish with 1/52. It seemed yet like a chaseable score, and he has in fact rescued KKR from dire situations before.
But it was not his night, as despite surviving a dropped chance, he tried swinging for one too many and gave a tame catch inside the circle to be dismissed for 16 off 10.
#1 Dinesh Karthik (KKR)
Returning to form with a sterling 58 off 29 that singlehandedly allowed KKR to reach a competitive total in the previous game, Karthik was expected to do something similar.
The KKR captain was expected to at least try to take some responsibility as batsmen like Morgan and Rana had tried hard to do, even if it didn't play out for them. Replacing a disconsolate Shubman Gill, Karthik showed none of the maturity his younger teammate had shown.
The way out for KKR, if there was one, was to wade out of the spin trap and go ballistic against pace. Instead, all Karthik had to offer to a wider delivery by Chahal was a drive with no footwork that saw the ball cannon back onto the stumps.
Departing for just 1 off 2, Karthik worsened the quagmire his team was in. KKR have been lucky to get away in their previous two matches, but they were painfully exposed here and captain Karthik has a lot of questions to answer.
Published 13 Oct 2020, 00:25 IST