Chasing a paltry total of 138, Kolkata Knight Riders had ample of time to take the game to the deep without taking much of the pressure. However, Punjab did not let them loose, with early strikes from Kagiso Rabada and Odean Smith putting the Knights under the pump, at 38/2.
Rahul Chahar, who impressed one and all, including former Sri Lankan all-rounder Russel Arnold, turned the game in Punjab’s favour with twin strikes, sending back both Shreyas Iyer and Nitish Rana, a body blow for the Knights.
However, as things ended, it was a one-way traffic, with West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell smacking a 31-ball 70, including smothering eight sixes and two boundaries. In the post-match show on Cricket.com, Arnold was critical of Punjab’s decision of not using their ace-bowler Kagiso Rabada against the big Jamaican Russell.
“It was certainly (Andre) Russell’s night, the target was truly within his range. It was beautifully setup, Punjab missed a trick by how they went about it in the field. Once they reduced KKR to four down, they should have gone for it,” Arnold told Cricket.com exclusively in the post-match show.
“They sat back and then that allowed Russell to go all-out, they had an ace (Rabada) that they should have used to pepper Andre Russell, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah for instance, had success against him with a particular line and length. Punjab had the tools but they did not target Russell’s weakness,” he added.
The Russell Show
Russell belted the bowlers, with eight sixes, including taking a liking against fellow West Indian all-rounder Smith, who was on the receiving end of some brutal damage. The 48-year-old Sri Lankan also insisted that another 60-70 runs would not have made a difference, especially on a night where Russell was looking to make things merry.
“You cannot take anything away from the man, the way he was going, another 60 runs would not have made a big difference. He was striking it that well. He has always been brutal about his power and that’s why he goes for it. You have to nip it in the bud when he comes out to bat.”
Earlier in the day, it was Bhanuka Rajapakse’s quick out-of-the-box start that gave Punjab the momentum. The Sri Lankan batter scored 31 runs off just nine balls, smashing three sixes and three boundaries. The former Sri Lankan all-rounder was in praise of the Sri Lankan, adding that it was an impressive knock.
“Bhanuka’s innings was impressive, the way he played his shots. But this is where it comes down to, what was the plan for the Punjab Kings, they batted like they needed 200 to have chance. That is where it is tricky, to set a target. The target you set is going to be very important. You can afford to have one player go like that and give you the momentum but from thereon, you need to build on it.”
Punjab's approach puzzled Arnold
However, having said that, Arnold questioned Punjab’s approach, calling that they were chasing too much at the end of the day, something that cost them the game.
“The Punjab batters all went aggressive, almost like they were all targeting a total of 220 in their head but this pitch looked a lot drier. Whenever KKR broke a partnership, it was because of change of pace. Punjab found themselves with their back against the wall. It was more of a 160-170 kind of wicket.”
Arnold also pointed that while Chahar was one of the best bowlers on the night, for Punjab, he could have been more aggressive in his last over with his line and length.
"In his (Chahar) fourth over, he had to look for a wicket but he bowled defensively, he probably should have attacked more, that way he could have invited Russell to make a mistake. But apart from that, his spell was brilliant, the line was more middle and leg, when he was looking to rip it through."
For Punjab, who will have a decision to make, when Jonny Bairstow walks back into the setup, Arnold believes that Livingstone would be the one to miss.
“Bairstow will definitely come in for his experience, it might be for Liam Livingstone because you have to balance the team. If Odean Smith goes out, you don’t have seamers, so probably Punjab will have to swap Bairstow for Livingstone. Punjab need to start using their resources much better.”