Kings XI Punjab 150 for 2 (Rahul 28, Mandeep 66*, Gayle 51) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 149 for 9 (Gill 57, Morgan 40, Shami 3-35, Jordan 2-25, Bishnoi 2-20) by eight wickets
The last time Kings XI Punjab took on the Kolkata Knight Riders, a little over two weeks ago, KL Rahul's side seemed to have plumbed the depths in the IPL. They had slumped to a sixth loss in seven games, this one particularly galling after having the match well in hand for about 90 percent of the chase. By the time the return fixture against the Knight Riders came about, the Kings XI were a team transformed - or at least a team with fortunes transformed.
There was no mucking about with last-over finishes, just a good bowling performance backed up by a efficient chase, and a fifth win on the trot. That the victory came against the Knight Riders - their closest competitors for a playoff spot - made this particularly significant. The Kings XI now have 12 points and moved to the top half of the points table.
The bowlers had kept the Knight Riders to 149 for 9, having successfully weathered an 81-run stand between Shubman Gill and Eoin Morgan. Mohammed Shami struck upfront and the legspin pair of Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin applied the choke in the second half.
The chase was clinical. Mandeep Singh partnered Rahul again at the top and shrugged off initial struggles to hit an emotionally charged half-century, batting till the end when the winning runs were hit. Chris Gayle came in at No.3 and bossed the bowlers around in a way only he can, out for 51 off 29 when only three runs were needed to create some artificial jitters, but Kings XI were not to be denied on Monday.
The Shami burst at the top
In what has been a regular occurrence this IPL, Shami struck early, bowling beautiful lines. Rahul Tripathi pushed at one that seamed away after pitching on off to be caught behind. Two balls later, Shami did it again, only with even more impressive movement to send back Dinesh Karthik. The batsman reviewed, because his bat had hit pad too, but the ball was too close to the bat for the decision to be overturned. This was after Glenn Maxwell had already snared Nitish Rana in the first over of the match, and at 10 for 3 in two overs, the Knight Riders were in a bit of a hole.
Morgan, Gill counter-attack
It was breathtaking to watch while it was on. Morgan was into his stride straightaway, and both men exploded when Shami was given a third over in the powerplay, taking him for 21 runs after he had given up just six in his first two overs. Both men continued in that vein even after the powerplay was done, punishing anything that was wide or full. Gill, who had been more circumspect at the start in earlier games, matched Morgan stroke for stroke as the Knight Riders made light of the early wickets. It was especially impressive given their long tail, and the pair of Gill and Morgan were the last proper batsmen they had.
Bishnoi, Ashwin rein the batsmen in
Ashwin gave up 14 runs in his first over, both Morgan and Gill hitting a six each. Bishnoi was hit for a six off his third ball, but off his fifth, he had Morgan slog-sweeping one of his googlies for his leg-spin twin to gobble the catch at deep square leg. Morgan had made 40 off 25 and taken the Knight Riders to 91 for 3 in the tenth over alongside Gill, but as soon as he fell, the team started to feel the effects of a lengthy tail.
Gill had faced 28 balls in the first ten overs, but in the next six overs, he was on strike for just nine deliveries. Sunil Narine, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Pat Cummins were unable to get the leggies away, even to just turn the strike over to Gill, and the Knight Riders innings sputtered. Gill was eventually out for a 45-ball 57 in the 19th over, having to farm the strike and manufacture big shots.
Mandeep starts cautiously, Gayle blasts off
Kings XI were missing Mayank Agarwal for a second game, but they stuck to the previous match's opening combination of KL Rahul and Singh. Although Singh took his time at the start, being on 3 off 11 at one point, Rahul was timing the ball with his usual fluency. With not a steep target to chase, the Kings XI could absorb some quiet overs, and once Singh had got his eye in, he began scoring more briskly.
The opening partnership ended at 47 in eight overs when Rahul was trapped lbw by Varun Chakravarthy, but Gayle's arrival turned the tide decisively in the way of the Kings XI. Gayle stuck to his time-tested method of taking the fielders out of the equation when the ball was in his hitting zone, smashing Chakravarthy for sixes off the fourth and fifth balls he faced. He had been troubled by Narine in the past, but on the day, he took 17 from the 11 balls he faced off Narine, smiting two dismissive sixes straight past him too. Anything full was met by the swinging arc of Gayle's bat with considerable force.
With a low total to defend, the Gayle onslaught meant the Knight Riders ran out of options quickly. Even though he fell for 51 off 29 after a stand worth exactly 100, there was to be no great escape for the Knight Riders this time.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo