Sunday signifies another doubleheader day in this IPL. As the IPL wheel rolls on, the best part about the business end of the tournament is that teams go into must-win territories. Yesterday, we saw both RR and CSK losing their matches to enter into the must-win territory. KXIP had been the earliest entrant in this zone, after 7 matches. Today’s match could have proved to be another one, as SRH and KKR faced off in the scorching afternoon sun in Abu Dhabi. Losing this match would land SRH into the much forbidden compulsory winning territory.
SRH won the toss and chose to field- a pretty surprising call as captains are preferring to bat first as the tournament progresses. While SRH added Abdul Samad, in place of Nadeem, KKR made a couple of positive changes. Kuldeep Yadav and Ferguson were brought back into the squad replacing Green and Prasidh. As Morgan said at the toss, though Narine was cleared to bowl, he was not fit to take the field yet.
KKR began with familiar troubles at the top. Rahul Tripathi showed some aggressive intent, to begin with, but against a relatively docile SRH attack, Gill again found it tough to maintain a strike-rate of over 100. I am pretty sure that Gill has been assigned the role of anchoring the inning for KKR, but you cannot anchor the inning at a strike rate of 100 in T20. Gill needs to aim to be at a strike rate of 120-130 if he wants to anchor the inning for KKR going ahead. I sincerely hope that the message goes loud and clear from the KKR management towards him in the subsequent matches.
Rahul Tripathi fell after a brief cameo of 23, giving KKR the early momentum in the powerplay. However, things slowed down from here on. After the powerplay, Gill went further into his shell and Rana found it difficult to keep the scoreboard ticking as well. In between overs 6 to 12, KKR scored only 40 runs losing both Gill and Rana in the process.
The biggest surprise for SRH with the ball was Vijay Shankar. He was supposed to be the weakest 5th bowler in the team and was supposed to go for runs. However, he used the pitch to good effect varying his pace and not allowing the batsmen the slightest of room to capitalize on. H conceded 20 runs from his 4 overs, scalping the valuable wicket of Nitish Rana. Shankar’s performance can give Warner confidence of playing the extra batsman in Samad for the rest of the tournament.
One thing that the duo of Rana and Gill did well today in the middle overs was that they did not concede wickets to Rashid Khan early on, in his spell. If Rashid gets a wicket early, he looks like a completely different type of bowler. KKR has historically played Rashid well and today was no exception.
Andre Russell failed with the bat yet again for KKR. I won’t be worried much about this as, except the last season, Russell has not been a consistent performer for the side. It has always been those 2-3 match-winning performances that give him accolades. However, he got out today in the 15th over landing KKR in a soup at 105-4. Captain Morgan and ex-captain DK took on the mettle from here on for KKR.
SRH death bowling, this year has been essentially about Natarajan. Today he impressed as well, picking 2 wickets in his 4 overs, but did not get support from the other end. DK was at his innovative best, moving around the crease, sweeping, lapping, and cutting Thampi. Morgan also played well with his square of the ground hoicks to Sandeep Sharma. The partnership of 59 off 29 deliveries from the duo ensured that KKR posts a respectable total of 163 on the board.
SRH came out to bat with an injured Williamson to open the batting. The ploy to open with Williamson was good, as he could take advantage of powerplay field restrictions since he was struggling to run between the wickets.
Williamson did just what was expected of him, as he raced to 29 off 19 deliveries in the powerplay. KKR bowlers were guilty of not bowling the right lines to him as well. When a batsman has an injured hamstring, it is almost a decorum to bowl outside the off stump, forcing him to use his reach. However, Cummins, Russell, and Mavi bowled friendly leg stump deliveries allowing Williamson to use his wrists to maneuver the gaps in the field of play.
Bairstow looked in fabulous touch as well, as SRH reached 58-0 in the first 6 overs. Then THE Lockie Ferguson came into the attack. For fans who are going berserk that why Ferguson was not playing before today was because he had a disaster of a tournament last year. In fact, he conceded runs at almost 11 per over in IPL 2019. That is exactly why KKR paid so much money for Cummins in the auction. However, today Ferguson looked to be in great form.
He dismissed his New Zealand skipper to begin the collapse for SRH. His pace looked intimidating on a surface, that had a bit of green tinge about it. The best thing for KKR was that Lockie used the variations of pace with good effect and had complete control over the slower ones. He bowled the slower yorker, the back of a length off-cutter with appreciable control, foxing the likes of Warner and Pandey. The yorker with which he dismissed Pandey was simply mind-boggling. Even the yorker-king Bumrah would have been proud of such delivery. Ferguson finished with 15 runs from his 4 overs, taking 3 wickets in the process.
Losing wickets in the middle overs meant that SRH needed to chase a high required run rate in the slog overs. But before I go into further details, I must call out SRh for their wrong strategy of holding Warner back for the middle overs. Promoting Priyam Garg at 3 was a mistake and I would have stuck to it had Garg scored a 30. With IPL’s most successful overseas batsman sitting in the dugout, you cannot promote young Garg to face the fiery pace of Lockie- utterly irresponsible.
The mystery-Chakravarthy is more than making up for Narine’s absence with his extra-ordinary bowling. Today he accounted for Bairstow with an excellent legspinner. Mavi, Ferguson, and Chakravarthy bowled well in the last few overs to ensure that SRH needs a mammoth 18 runs in the last over. I don’t know what kind of message you are throwing to a player like Kuldeep Yadav when you prefer an injured Russell over him in the final over. Absolute inexplicable and horrific decision making from KKR team management to bowl an injured Russell against Warner in the last over. This is no Sharjah and the long boundaries of Abu Dhabi could have well-drawn the result in Kuldeep’s favor. Sorry captain Morgan- I don’t agree with you tonight.
Russell with his limping run-up and slow pace almost conceded the match to SRH as Warner scored a hattrick of boundaries in the last over. However, as luck would have it, Warner could not put the final finishing touches and we were in for a super over to end this humdinger.
Ferguson owned the stage once again in the super rover, as he lit up the stumps twice in a space of 3 balls, dismissing Warner and Samad. KKR needed a paltry 3 to win the match, which DK and Morgan scarped off quite easily. KKR consolidated their position in the points table at No. 4. Is Cummins’ or Russell’s position up for grabs as Narine returns the next match? We will find that out soon.