The top order was a major concern for the Kolkata Knight Riders going into IPL 2023. The fear came true on Saturday as the Knight Riders lost by seven runs (DLS method) to Punjab Kings in their rain-affected opener at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday.
Though their top order failed to fire, the Knight Riders still reached 146/7 in 16 overs in reply to Punjab Kings’ 191/5. The drizzle, which began towards the end of over No.14, got heavier since then and forced players out of the field.
The task had already become further arduous for the Knights as they had lost the dangerous-looking Andre Russell (35) during that period of play to Sam Curran (26 not out and 1/38). But with both Shardul Thakur (8 not out) and Sunil Narine (7 not out) capable of striking meaty blows, the Knights were still hopeful while the equation (46 runs required off 24 balls) too wasn’t out of reach.
Unfortunately, the DLS par score was 153, and with the weather in Mohali not getting any better, the game couldn’t resume which meant Punjab Kings were the winners.
The Knights may feel let down by rain, but they first need to look at their top order and make the right selections.
Chasing a 192-run target, the Knights were wobbling at 29/3 in the fifth over. When they have a promising top-order batter like Narayan Jagadeesan in their squad, the Knights picked Mandeep Singh to open alongside Afghanistan keeper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Mandeep could contribute only 2.
Another strange move was to send in Jharkhand spinner all-rounder Anukul Roy at No.3. Roy scored only four and wasn’t given even an over to bowl on a surface that had a little bit for the spinners.
Venkatesh Iyer, who has done well in the past as a top-order batter, was used as the Impact Player, coming in for spinner Varun Chakravarthy (1/26). Not that Iyer didn’t contribute, but he could have done a better job at the top order than Mandeep or Roy.
For Punjab, their No.3 batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa (50) top-scored, while captain Shikhar Dhawan (40) also played sensibly. But their real star was left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh, who made fine use of the short ball to finish with 3/19 in three overs and take the Man of the Match award.