They might’ve left it till the last ball, but the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) managed to sneak through to their second win of IPL 2020 against the same team they had achieved their solitary win against earlier in the tournament, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
Opting to bat first, RCB openers Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch got their team off to a strong start on a slower Sharjah wicket. The two added 38 in 4 overs before Devdutt Padikkal was outfoxed by a slower delivery from Arshdeep Singh and was safely held by Nicholas Pooran at short cover. Skipper Virat Kohli came out all guns blazing, smashing two cracking fours off the left-arm seamer and one off the leg-spinner, Ravi Bishnoi, in the following over.
The other KXIP leggie, Murugan Ashwin, was brought into the attack right after the powerplay ended, and after inducing an outside edge from Finch second ball that went through the gap between keeper Rahul and Gayle at first slip, he cleaned the Australian opener up with a quicker one.
With two leg-spinners operating in tandem, RCB sent out Washington Sundar ahead of AB de Villiers to make the most of it. However, Murugan bowled a very tight line to his state-teammate, and Ravi Bishnoi was immediately replaced by off-spinner Glenn Maxwell, who only gave away 16 in a two over spell.
Sundar finally perished trying to go after Murugan Ashwin, holing out to Chris Jordan at long-on in the process. De Villiers was still nowhere to be seen on the field after the fall of Sundar’s wicket, as Shivam Dube strode out to the middle. Bishnoi and Jordan, brought back into the attack, bowled two economical overs before Dube got hold of a couple off the young leggie, clearing long-on and deep mid-wicket off successive deliveries. Jordan then pulled things back for Punjab in emphatic fashion, giving only 5 runs away in the 16th along with Dube’s wicket.
AB de Villiers walked out with 4 overs remaining, which turned out to be too little of a span of time for him to make an impact. Kings XI Punjab were excellent at the death barring the last over, in which Chris Morris took 24 off Mohammed Shami. Morris’ 8-ball 25 helped RCB to get to a fighting total of 171, which meant that their bowlers had a decent score to defend.
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal walked out to commence the chase for KXIP despite the presence of Chris Gayle, arguably the finest opening batsman of all time in T20 Cricket. Mayank Agarwal started to pick up the pace in the 4th over after the previous three fetched only 18, smashing a six over long-off and then consecutive boundaries off Chahal in his first over.
The duo then picked up the pattern which they have been implementing over the course of the tournament so far. Agarwal took the role of the aggressor and Rahul pinched singles and spent most of his time at the non-striker’s end. The opening partnership went on to last for 8 overs, registering 78 runs before Chahal finally broke through, bowling Agarwal leg-stump after going for 14 in his second. In walked Gayle, in his brand new number 3 position, and initially took some time to settle in, surviving a leg-before decision in the process by reluctantly going for a review.
Rahul, who had played 31 balls for his 34 midway into the innings, finally broke the shackles by striking successive sixes off Siraj in the . Gayle, intrigued by the same, dished out similar treatment to Washington Sundar in the next over, simply playing the off-spinner like a medium pacer and timing the ball too well. Gayle survived the leg-before decision in the following over from Morris, and was kept quiet by Saini next over, with the Delhi pacer conceding just 3 runs at a crucial juncture of the match. Saini’s effort was undone by Siraj next over, with Gayle and Rahul combining to take 20 off the 16th, which left KXIP with 26 to get off 4 overs.
Washington Sundar’s night went from bad to worse next over, with the off-spinner being hit for two more sixes by Gayle, who went on to reach his fifty in the same over and got to sport his ‘The Boss’ sticker on the back of his bat, albeit upside down, as the commentators pointed out later.
Although the game seemed to be gone for RCB, Chris Morris and Isuru Udana gave them a ray of hope by keeping the rampant duo of Rahul and Gayle down to 9 runs in the two overs preceding the last of the game. Yuzvendra Chahal, who went for 28 in his first two overs was brought out to defend only 2 runs off the final over.
To his credit, he courageously gave the ball a firm rip and lots of air against Gayle in the first three deliveries, out of which Gayle managed only a single (which could have been two if they ran the first one hard) to level the scores. Rahul almost cut the following delivery straight to the hands of Sundar at point next ball, before trying to pinch the winning run which resulted in Gayle being run out at the keeper’s end with the scores level.
Nicholas Pooran, though, walked in and without showing a hint of nerves, danced down the wicket, converted the last ball of the match into a full toss, and got just enough out of it to clear long-on. KXIP managed to avoid a déjà vu of the Delhi Capitals game and completed a double over the Royal Challengers Bangalore for the season, keeping themselves alive in the tournament as well.
RCB v KXIP – Major Talking Points
RCB’s move to send left-handers ahead of de Villiers backfired
Although the decision was tactically trenchant with two leg-break bowlers operating, the fact that de Villiers put up a de Villiers-like show in their previous game against KKR on the same pitch, which was slow and low in nature should not have been ignored by the RCB management.
To send one left-hander ahead of de Villiers would have been ideal, but to throw both of them in the mix and keep de Villiers until the back end of the innings did not do any good to both the team and the confidence of de Villiers, who, after playing such a blinder of a knock the last game, had to go for the slogs right from ball one without being able to adjust to the wicket, which was the reason behind his success last game. The move certainly did not enhance Washington Sundar’s, and despite two big sixes, Shivam Dube’s reputation with the bat either, with both of them struggling to adjust to the slowness of the wicket and failing to make the most of the leg-break bowlers.
KXIP producing an improved death bowling performance
Although Chris Morris somewhat ruined the lovely exhibition of death bowling from the KXIP bowlers at the death by smashing 24 off the last over from Shami, the fact that the KXIP conceding only 25 in the four overs before that won’t be taken away from them. The KXIP bowlers have been guilty of going for too many runs at the death, which has led to their batsmen chasing a few more runs than desired and fall short several times. KXIP did put up a good show with the ball in the last five overs of the SRH game as well, but the fact that they actually managed to win a game highlights the death bowling effort from today a lot more.
First, Chris Jordan bowled with good pace and mixed up his length, which led to Shivam Dube’s dismissal. Murugan Ashwin then kept the duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers down to singles and one double in his final over of the evening. Mohammed Shami then went one step ahead and dismissed both the stalwarts in the 18th over, in which he, too, bowled an assortment of slow cutters, yorkers, and length deliveries, and dismissed Kohli with the wiliest slower bouncer which never really got to the RCB skipper, glancing his glove and ballooning up, and settling in the mitts of a diving Rahul. Morris did clear the ropes once off Jordan in the penultimate over, but the Englishman only went for four singles other than that.
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal opening the batting with Chris Gayle in the XI
Yeah, sure, the duo went on to register a 78-run opening partnership, but here’s the thing. A 124-match veteran in the IPL until today, Christopher Gayle had opened the innings in 122 of them, scoring 4480 runs out of his 4484 in the T20 League. Gayle’s game plan is quite simple; he needs some time to settle in, a couple of overs at the most, before wielding his heavy bat and dismissing the white projectile out of sight.
KL Rahul, on the other hand, has made a habit of playing risk-free Cricket for the best part of the innings and only going after the bowling at the death. Even if we consider the fact that Chris Morris and Washington Sundar, two of RCB’s best bowlers who could have caused the celebrated Jamaican trouble early on, were the reason behind not sending him out to open, Gayle did end up doing a decent job in the middle stages of the chase, when the match was well poised. In fact, he did enough to ruin Washington Sundar’s economy rate in the tournament by carting him for a total of four sixes in his innings of 53.
With the way Mayank Agarwal has been batting, had Gayle opened the innings today and played the same knock, the match would have been done within the 15th over with the kind of firepower the KXIP middle-order possessed today, thereby heavily inflating their Net Run Rate. Instead, they almost botched the run chase up, and it was left to Nicholas Pooran to get the winning run off the final delivery, which was done with gusto by the Trinidadian.