New Delhi: Punjab smoked KKR bowlers thanks to openers KL Rahul (60 off 27) and Chris Gayle (62 n.o in 38 balls) who walked in with a destructive mindset. KL Rahul looked in supreme touch, showed perfect balance and was spot on with his footwork. Gayle, on the other end, did what he is best at -- wait for the ball in his range.
Punjab were provided with a terrific start and were way ahead of Duckworth Lewis par score of 65 when rain interrupted play. When the play resumed, Punjab were asked to make 125 in 13 overs. They were 28 away in 29 balls and both batters continued from they left off. Gayle smacked a six to reach his third fifty-plus score in as many games while Rahul stroked his way to his second fifty for KXIP with a maximum too. Eventually, Punjab won their fourth match by 9 wickets (DLS method) to go top of the IPL table. KXIP overhauled the target in 11.1 overs.
Mind you, this is the Gayle who is batting with a long-format mindset, who might not appear imposing but landed bloody blows every now and then. He would respect every good ball and launch his attack the moment a bowler erred. Unlike Gayle, who picked his bowlers, Rahul picked the spot well against each bowler. When he played Shivam Mavi and Andre Russell, he covered the line well and was on top of the ball to play sublime drives. He rocked back equally well with nimble footwork and displayed handsome pull shots.
Against spinners, Rahul rarely committed himself on the front foot early and rocked back immediately to the balls pitched on the good length. The Eden Gardens wicket didn't have a skiddy texture, thus giving Rahul the time to trust his back foot game.
Gayle was the exact opposite. He was fed width and burped after walloping the bowlers around. Despite having trouble early on against Mavi's swing, Gayle remained calm and waited for the youngster to err. And when he did, he muscled the ball. When Andre Russell found the going tough against him, Sunil Narine was introduced against Gayle. The matchup was a fascinating one to watch as Gayle wasn't ready to give away his wicket, for it was all about who would blink first.
So when Narine blinked, Gayle pummelled him the moment he went fuller. That said, Gayle has shown a wise approach to batting and the way he has gone so far, it will not be wrong to assess that it could be Gayle who can lead KXIP's charge this season.
While KKR's 191 looked to be a good total, KXIP have shown thrice in four matches that if they start in an explosive way, just like they did on Saturday, they have been able to mow down huge totals. Only once have they ended below 50 in the powerplay and had to settle for a loss against RCB.
Earlier, KKR were hurt by the frequent loss of wickets during the back end of their innings and consequently fell nine runs short of 200. The way the Eden Gardens has played, it looked KKR finished short by at least 20-25 runs. Although it was Chris Lynn who laid a perfect platform for KKR with a well made 74, he will have to cop a lot of blame for not carrying his bat through. Later, Dinesh Karthik (43) too lost his wicket in the penultimate over to see KKR struggling in the last over. Unfortunately, Andre Russell too came a cropper and KKR couldn't up the ante.
KKR stitched important stands -- 72, 62, 26 -- but all were broken at a time when the hosts would have least expected. With momentum on their side, Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa flayed the Punjab bowling. But an irresponsible stroke in the ninth over by Uthappa ended his knock and gave Punjab a chance to apply some brakes. Dinesh Karthik joined Lynn and once again KKR picked up pace. The duo put together 62 runs together and looked pretty much set to take KKR past 200.
Lynn, known to take on the opposition from the word go, took a leaf out of Chris Gayle's book and negotiated KXIP's bowling. He looked determined to cut out all the risk shots and make sure KKR does not lose wickets. Till the first six overs, he was batting on 22 off 17 balls but he launched his onslaught in the eighth over when Barinder Sran was taken by a surprise and was thrashed for 23 runs. After Uthappa exchanged strike on the second ball including a six on the first ball, Lynn got a wide delivery, which he slapped to cover for a boundary.
The next was shorter, quicker and Lynn rode the bounce to deposit Sran rows back in the square-leg stands. On the last ball, he picked Sran's slower very early and positioned himself to repeat the pull for a six. From 22 off 17 balls, Lynn shot up to 40 off just 23. Four overs later, Lynn got a four of a half tracker from Yuvraj and followed it up a single and a two to reach his 50 off 30 balls.
Lynn then targeted Andrew Tye in the 13th over and collected 13 runs. He stood deep in the crease and took a middle-stump guard. The advantage of standing in such a stance was that it was easy for him to open up, swivel and launch the bowlers on the leg side. Also, Lynn rotated the strike really well and ensured he wasn't missing out on singles.
His over-dependence on the leg-side eventually cost him his wicket though. As he tried to drag a Tye slower one wide of off towards leg, Lynn could only snick it behind on 74. Tye understood the pitch better in his second spell and mixed up his variations well to cut down on his pace. Lynn, standing deep in his crese was expecting the ball to reach him quickly but he was early into his shot and miscued. The wicket shifted the momentum in Punjab's favour.
Though, when it came on Karthik to see KKR through, he too got out in the penultimate over, to give Punjab the hope to go after 191.