An unbeaten opening partnership between Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson against the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) brought along an emphatic 10-wicket win for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). KXIP, by virtue of their 4th defeat this season, have now replaced CSK at the bottom of the 2020 IPL points table.
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal got KXIP off to a decent start with an 61-run opening partnership in 8 overs before Agarwal pulled a half-tracker from Chawla down the throat of Curran at deep mid-wicket. Mandeep Singh walked in ahead of Nicholas Pooran at 3, but started off on an aggressive mode, smashing Chawla for a couple of sixes over mid-wicket. His aggressive cameo came to an abrupt end when he uppishly drove Jadeja to cover and was well pouched by Ambati Rayudu. Pooran walked in with a total of 3 overs left for Chawla and Jadeja, and he tucked into Jadeja straightaway, smashing a four and a six off the left-arm spinner’s last over of the evening.
Rahul got to his fifty next over with a six over long-off off Thakur. He then started to accelerate alongside Pooran, until both of them fell in consecutive deliveries in the 18th over. Sarfaraz Khan and Glenn Maxwell did okay to get them to 178, with Sarfaraz providing some entertainment with his innovative strokes.
It was all CSK from thereon, with Watson smashing Cottrell for a couple of boundaries in the first over of the chase itself. To be fair, Punjab kept things tight in the first five overs – conceding 41 – before Jordan, brought back into the side to bolster KXIP’s death bowling, went for 19 in his first over. That over completely released the pressure created at the start, and young Ravi Bishnoi and left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar had to bear the brunt of that.
Although Bishnoi bowled an economical 6-run first over, the two following overs from Brar and him went for 29. The opening duo reached their fifties in the same over, the 11th from Jordan, as CSK went ahead and brought up the highest opening stand for CSK in the IPL. CSK reached their target as convincingly as it could get, with du Plessis sealing the deal with a six and then a boundary through extra cover off Shami.
What went wrong for Kings XI Punjab today?
Lokesh Rahul taking too long to settle in
He might have a bucketload of runs in the 5 matches KXIP have played so far, but KL Rahul hasn’t been able to increase the tempo of the innings well enough as compared to his opening partner, Mayank Agarwal. It seems like he would do better in the middle-order, where he would get a reasonable amount of time to get his eye in and then accelerate towards the end. He is well and truly capable of that, having scored 311 runs at a strike rate of 204.6 in the last five overs since 2018. That would ensure that the big-hitters get to bat at the top, which brings us to our next point.
Underutilizing Nicholas Pooran yet again
Nicholas Pooran is not an ideal candidate to build an innings walking in at number 4. The Trinidadian does have the capability to smash it from ball 1, which favours his case for opening the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal, a point we made after the Mumbai Indians game as well. Even if we keep aside the issue of him not opening the batting, he could have well and truly walked in at 3 today, with a left-arm spinner and a leg-spinner operating and KXIP requiring a kick-on after a fairly slow start. Instead, we saw Mandeep Singh walk in, who did hit a couple of sixes but took 16 balls to score 27, which further brought down the run rate.
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KXIP bowlers unable to break through at all despite pressurizing start
The KXIP bowlers, despite Cottrell conceding a couple of boundaries to Watson in the first over, did have their moments in the first 5 overs. Shami beat Watson a couple of times in his first over, Cottrell induced a false shot or two, Brar almost trapped du Plessis in front in his first over of the 2020 IPL, the game seemed to be well poised until then.
And then Jordan, on his 32nd birthday, went for 19 in the last over of the powerplay, undoing all the hard work put in by his teammates in the previous overs. Du Plessis, having received the strike second ball, first ramped a slower delivery over the keeper, then gathered a brace with a mis-timed hit over cover, and then ended the over with three back-to-back boundaries, punishing anything that had width. That over took care of the required run-rate and from thereon, the opening pair controlled the innings.