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Kings XI still unconquered

- Chawla & Narine’s good work in vain; Sandeep is the MoM
Morne Morkel and Gautam Gambhir celebrate Glenn Maxwell’s wicket, in Abu Dhabi, on Saturday. (PTI)

Abu Dhabi: The Kolkata Knight Riders made heavy weather of what looked like an easy target against Kings XI Punjab, at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, on Saturday.

Gautam Gambhir had hoped at the toss that the ball would come onto the bat better in the second session. That, however, was not to be as Gambhir’s men fell short by 23 runs in their pursuit of 133.

Kings XI Punjab thus maintained their all-win record in their four matches so far. The Knight Riders have won two and lost two.

Gambhir’s woeful run continued. After managing three ducks in as many matches, he dropped himself to No.3. That, however, didn’t change his luck as he scored just one off five deliveries.

The Knight Riders captain could have been dismissed for another first-ball duck, but Lakshmipathy Balaji couldn’t hold on to the caught and bowled attempt to his right.

His teammates also didn’t fare much better. Except for Suryakumar Yadav, who made 34 off 17 balls, none of the Knight Riders batsmen seemed to live up to the challenge.

Much like his captain, Yusuf Pathan continued with his woeful form. Robin Uthappa could have made a difference as he looked to be in good nick during his 19 off 27 balls. But a terrible misunderstanding resulted in his run out in the 13th over.

The Knight Riders’ innings lasted just 18.2 overs and it proved that none of the batsmen showed the application and determination to stay at the wicket.

Pacer Sandeep Sharma was the most successful bowler for the Kings XI with three for 21. Mitchell Johnson pitched in with two wickets but equally impressive was Balaji.

The Knight Riders had gambled a but by including Piyush Chawla. The Knight Riders team management had decided to exclude Ranganath Vinay Kumar from the XI despite the pacer’s exploits in their previous match.

Vinay Kumar had bowled a superb final over giving away only six runs when nine were needed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for victory. The decision to include Chawla was prompted by another leggie, 42-year-old Pravin Tambe’s success for Rajasthan Royals in the day’s first match at this very ground.

“It was tough to leave out Vinay Kumar. But it’s a horses for courses policy,” reasoned Gambhir at the toss.

Chawla justified the faith shown on him by returning figures of three for 19. The leg-spinner showed superb control in his four overs and the dismissals of George Bailey and Virender Sehwag in the 14th over virtually ended the Kings XI’s hopes of reaching the 150-run mark.

Equally impressive was Sunil Narine. The off-spinner went for 14 runs in his first over which included a slog swept six over mid wicket by Sehwag and a reverse swept boundary by Glenn Maxwell. He was replaced by Morne Morkel, but came back strongly to pick three for 10 in his remaining three overs.

All three of Narine’s wickets came in the penultimate over with Balaji preventing the hat-trick. Akshar Patel and Mitchell Johnson were dismissed off consecutive deliveries.

It was mainly because of Chawla and Narine’s miserly spells that Kings XI could manage only 21 runs in the last five overs. But it wouldn’t be wise to forget Morkel’s spell that spelt doom for Kings XI.

Coming into this match, the focus was on Maxwell. The Knight Riders had obviously had their plans in place for the tournament’s highest scorer (279 runs in three matches), but like other teams it seemed to go awry.

That was till Morkel replaced Narine. The fast bowler sent Maxwell’s leg stump cartwheeling with a yorker as he went for an extravagant shot. Maxwell made only 15 off 12 balls.