Two is the important number here. For the second game in a row, Kolkata Knight Riders got out of jail after looking toothless with the ball in the first half. Kings XI Punjab lost the plot to spill two points. It was a matter of a couple of inches that saw them lose by 2 runs.
At the end of their last game, Dinesh Karthik was vocal about the trust he has in Sunil Narine to do the job for them under pressure situations. Today, it was Narine alongside Prasidh Krishna, who was playing his first game of the season, who staged a comeback for KKR from an unlikely corner.
Only 22 short of their target with three overs and nine wickets in hand, Narine castled Nicholas Pooran, the only fluent strokemaker in KXIP’s sinking season this year. This was followed by a baffling decision from KXIP to send Prabhsimran Singh over Glenn Maxwell. The youngster scored only one run from four balls in the over which brought KKR back in the game. Prasidh backed it up by dismissing both Prabhsimran and the well-set KL Rahul. Moreover, he conceded only six runs.
Suddenly KXIP were down to need 14 runs off the last over with two batsmen who were yet to face a delivery. What made their task cumbersome was the fact that they had to face Narine.
The wily spinner narrowed the equation down to 7 runs off the last ball. In most cases, there is no better batsman than Glenn Maxwell for such a situation but hopelessly out-of-form, he was yet to hit a maximum this season. On this occasion, he did found the fence but the ball fell a couple of inches short of the extra-cover boundary as KXIP fell short by 2 runs.
100-run stand but with at what cost?
The KXIP management must be pulling their hair out to succumb to such fortunes after a 100-run stand between their openers - Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. The duo milked the KKR bowlers for 14 overs in the innings. Post Powerplay, they played only six dot balls with an incessant display of running between the wickets.
However, the question arises if the safety first approach post a consolidating Powerplay was right. Rahul, after the defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabad mentioned strike-rate is not important as long as one is winning the games for his team. However, his knock of 71 runs off 58 balls will come under fire.
His strike-rate of 117.9 during the middle-phase was the lowest amongst all batsmen in this game (barring Pooran who played only three balls in this phase). He struck only two fours and did not show any intent. Consequently, Mayank was again the batsman who took the mantle of scoring quicker and holed out at deep mid-wicket in the 15th over scoring an eye-catching 56 from 39 balls.
Rahul’s opposite number, Karthik played a contrasting knock. Even though he plays a different role to that of Rahul, Karthik shunned his critics who were scrutinizing him for both his captaincy and batting. Walking in to bat with the challenge to acclimatize himself on a slow track and to fix an even slower start to the innings, Karthik was steady during the middle-overs.
However, the KKR skipper picked up to dictate his team’s fortunes in the last phase of their innings. KKR scored 56 runs off the bat at the death. Karthik scored 44 of them. He maneuvered the field brilliantly beginning the death overs phase with three fours off Arshdeep Singh. Next over, he dented Chris Jordan's comeback with three more boundaries (a six sandwiched between two fours) and completed his fifty (from only 22 balls) in the next over giving Shami a similar kind of treatment.
Earlier in the innings, it was Shubman Gill who steadied KKR after a listless start. Rahul Tripathi failed to build on his match-winning 81 in the last game, taking nine balls to get off the mark before being castled by Mohammed Shami. It was an ameliorated bowling performance by KXIP today which strangled KKR for a major part of their innings. But just as it was the case with the bat, the bowling performances of the two sides were also polarized in every phase of the game and evidently resulted in a close win for KKR.
Criclytics Wins Predictor
Though Criclytics had KKR as the pre-match favorite with 59 per cent chances of winning, the tide turned in the favor of KXIP after the third over itself.
As mentioned above, their win percentage dropped from 74 to 27 percent courtesy of Prasidh's twin strikes in the penultimate over. Narine's last over brought the curtain down on KXIP's win percentage, and probably their season as well.