KKR and RR met in a huge clash at the Dubai International cricket stadium in another potential tie for the second match of the day. The loser of this game is completely eliminated from the playoff race, but the winner also does not qualify for the playoffs. However, the winner stays alive and his fate in the playoffs will depend on the remaining 2 games.
Steve Smith won the toss and sent KKR to bat on a surface that threatened to slow down as the innings progressed. RR, however, was more determined to exploit the dew that would settle in the last half of the match. Unsurprisingly, KKR brought in Andre Russell for their last game of the league stage – a final clearance to provide balance for a team that has had a lot of hot and cold in this tournament.
KKR started the most important match in a disastrous way. Nitish Rana was dismissed early on, unable to cope with Jofra Archer’s speed. Archer looked utterly unplayable in his early overs on the power play as he breathed fire to burn both Gill and Tewatia. Fortunately both youngsters survived the spell and were extremely relieved when their first 2 overs were completed.
The first part of Smith’s inexplicable strategy tonight came on the power play. Even after learning that both Gill and Tripathi were disturbed by the pace, he didn’t use Kartik Tyagi on the power play. The Under-19 star has been a valuable bowler for RR on the power play, but nevertheless it was to Shreyas Gopal who conceded 17 to give KKR the momentum on the power play. The fact that KKR ended up scoring 55 on the power play, despite Jofra conceding just 3 runs in his 2 overs, speaks volumes about how RR’s bowling has mostly focused on Archer.
Gill and Tripathi played very vital shots for KKR tonight as they consolidated at a brisk pace scoring 70 in the first 8 overs. However, Gill was unable to change gears effectively yet again, as he became caught in the center of Tewatia’s bowling alley. Narine, Tripathi and DK set off in quick succession and suddenly KKR was left looking at a mediocre score. Once again, KKR stayed to play the comeback game after an excellent start.
But tonight it was time for the latest KKR recruits to show courage. From being in a soup, Morgan and Russell took the attack on the opposition. Morgan looked at his own for the first time in the tournament when he smashed Shreyas Gopal for a run of 21. It was obvious that Smith had stuck with Archer for Russell. However, Russell also showed shades of his form last year, as he dispatched Archer for 2 straight sixes that derailed Smith’s plan.
The duo of Russell and Archer sacked 46 in 3 overs to take KKR to 146 in 15 overs. That blitzkrieg of a partnership changed the game for KKR. Before the duo could do any more damage to RR, Kartik Tyagi sent Russell off with an excellent yorker. Kartik Tyagi, as a bowler, has impressed me a lot in this IPL and we look forward to seeing more of him in the years to come.
KKR posted a massive total of 194 in their allotted 20 overs, courtesy of some late fireworks from Morgan and Cummins. Morgan dropped his teammate Ben Stokes as the lefty scored 21 of 19he on. The KKR captain ultimately finished with 68 of 35 balls and made sure to give his bowlers a good total to defend against.
The second entry was very much about Pat Cummins. There has been a lot of talk about how it has been the most pointless purchase for KKR as they failed to pick up the land for the men in purple. Tonight, he also started the inning on a bad note by conceding 19 of his first 5 balls.
As I have said time and time again, cricket is a great leveller. After conceding 19 of the first 5 balls from him, Pat Cummins picked up 4 wickets on the power play to dismantle the RR top order. Cummins used the seam move to his advantage, just like Bumrah did yesterday, and made life difficult for the men in pink.
However, out of these 4 Cummins lands, one of them belongs to DK. That Stokes catch was mind blowing, to say the least. The fact that DK got caught on the wrong foot and had to fly to take that blinder made the effort all the more majestic. In fact the catch brought back memories of Durban 2007 when DK similarly caught Graeme Smith at 3rd slide.
Having lost half his side on the power play due to some disciplined bowling from Mavi and Cummins, RR lost any hope of winning the match quite early. Smith, Parag, Uthappa and Stokes fell to the Australian and KKR sniffed the victory, already in the 6he game over. Varun Chakravarthy scalped the only man, able to jailbreak RR-Jos Butler soon after to end RR’s journey in this tournament.
KKR won the match by 60 runs to stay alive in the competition. Varun Chakravarthy finished with figures of 2 for 20. It should be noted that in an illustrious bowling line-up, which has Narine, Cummins and Russell, Varun is the biggest wicket-taker for KRK this season with 17 wickets. We will actually see him in the colors of India very soon.