The action moves to Dubai for the second match of the day. The legend MSD faces off against his most probable successor in limited-overs cricket-KL Rahul. This clash was going to be extremely vital for both the teams as both of them were languishing at the bottom of the table with 1 win from 4 matches. Both the teams were struggling for momentum and the team losing out tonight would have an arduous task at hand, as they have to win 7 of their next 9 matches going forward.
KXIP won the toss and decided to bat first-quite a strange decision considering their weak death bowling. KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal began on a fascinating note yet again. The lineup for KXIP this year, resembles the lineup for MI in the first-ever IPL. They had 2 very strong openers in the form of Sachin and Jayasuriya and they would get good starts in every match, but the weak middle order would not be able to build on the solid platform provided by the openers.
Deepak Chahar is not picking wickets for CSK in the powerplay and that is causing quite a bit of problem for CSK. Tonight as well, Mayank and Rahul milked Deepak for singles and doubles and provided their team with a solid opening partnership of 61, before Mayank was holed out in the deep by Curran. With a solid platform on offer, the under-rated Mandeep Singh joined KL Rahul at the crease.
Mandeep looked impressive in his short stay at the wicket. With Captain Kl holding fort at one end, his job was to attack the CSK spinners and he did that to good effect. Mandeep’s footwork has been extraordinary against spin and today it was again on display as he took the likes of Chawla and Jadeja to the cleaners.
Jadeja was better with the ball tonight, but CSK will still expect a lot more from their premier spinner. In fact, I would say Jadeja got lucky with Mandeep’s wicket as Mandeep timed a half volley right to Rayudu’s hands at cover.
Nicholas Pooran came to join KL at the crease and both of them started butchering the CSK attack. KL reached his fifty and he is indeed looking good to make this IPL his very own. He is making a happy habit of playing the long inning- something he had failed to do in the past. The best part of any KL Rahul inning is that he never tries to slog the ball- a quality that makes his batting soothing to the eye. Nicholas Pooran was the complete opposite at the other end, using his bat like a sword for fun. The amount of force he was generating from the bat was simply surreal and his square of the wicket sixes is something that can feature in any highlights package this season.
KXIP were all set to touch the 190-run mark, as they reached 152 for 2 after 17 overs with 2 set batsmen at the crease. Then in a remarkable turn of events, suddenly KXIP lost both the set batsmen off consecutive deliveries, courtesy some brilliance from Shardul, and some guile from the veteran leader. Nicholas Pooran did not time a length ball from Shardul and was holed out bY Jadeja in the deep. In the very next ball, Dhoni set about his quirky field settings. With a straight fine leg and no deep square leg, Dhoni almost told the batsman that the ball will be full and wide. KL wanted to dab the ball to the short third man boundary, using the bowler’s pace- something that any prudent batsman will do. The trick was that Shardul pulled the length back just by a few inches and KL’s dab instead of going to the boundary ended up in MSD’s gloves- Plan set and executed.
KXIP, as a result, had 2 new batsmen at the crease in the 18th over and never had the finishing flourish that they were expected to get. Maxwell and Sarfraz tried their level best, but KXIP could not even breach the 180-run mark and ultimately fell short by 15-20 runs of what they should have achieved.
Well, the CSK inning was one-way traffic. It is very difficult to write something about this inning, as one-sided as this one. The CSK engine looks to have finally warmed up after the first 4 matches and KXIP were unfortunate enough to fall in the way of the well oiled high-speed CSK jet tonight.
The thinking from Rahul was right enough to start with Sheldon Cottrell. The inswing from Bhuvi has been a cause of Watson’s undoing earlier in the tournament and Cottrell could do the same with his left arm’s angle. The problem was that tonight there was no swing on offer for the burly West Indian. Watson looked edgy in the initial few overs, with failed attempts to loft the ball over the inner circle. Watson was lucky at times as well in the first 5 overs, as a few of his mistimed serial shots fell at blank pockets in the field.
There was not much to mention about the KXIP bowlers. KL Rahul brought in Jordan to solve the death bowling woes of the franchise but Du Plessis smashed him for 19 off his very first over in the powerplay. There was no respite for the birthday boy Jordan as the South African opener looked to be in excellent touch, slamming him for a couple of boundaries in his next over as well.
With most of his options exhausted in the powerplay, KL Rahul was only left with his last hope-Ravi Bishnoi, the young leggie. But by the time Bishnoi came in Watson has already started timing his cover drives and straight drives to good effect. The experienced duo was smart enough to play out Bishnoi in his first over- knowing that he is the primary threat they need to be careful about. Once Bishnoi could not pick up a wicket in his first 2 overs, the match was done and dusted right there.
Watson and Du Plessis played their shots with Watson being particularly severe down the ground. The way he cleared his front leg to launch Cottrell over long-on in the 14th over, clearly showed signs that the senior all-rounder is finding his mojo back. Du Plessis, on the other hand, was exquisite square of the wicket as he cut pulled, swiveled, and dabbed to hit some outrageous shots. The six he hit off Shami’s perfect yorker over cover was ridiculous and provided a demo of his extravagant abilities with the willow.
CSK launched up the second-highest opening partnership in the tournament, to canter to a win by 10 wickets against a hapless Punjab. So where does Punjab go from here? You are bound to have bad games and KXIP needs to dismiss this as one. However, a few issues are pertinent to the team. For some weird reason, Mujeeb is still not playing in spite of the rising bowling woes for the franchise. For some reason or the other, KXIP is looking at everyone for death bowling, except Mujeeb. The duo of KL and Kumble needs to look at the young Afghan very soon as KXIP is running out of matches in the competition. I hope they won’t end up as this year’s RCB.
For CSK, it is not going to be as hunky-dory as today’s match from here on. Shane Watson did not face a swinging ball tonight, something that has exploited his flat-footedness on the crease. Also, the middle order of CSK was not tested in this match. However, as I said in the last match as well, this is the best combination for CSK going forward, but MS Dhoni needs to come up at 4 if he wants his team to go the playoffs this year.