The second match of the day was a virtual eliminator. KXIP and SRH faced off at the Ring of Fire in Dubai and Punjab was dealt a blow even before the match started. The extravagant Mayank Agarwal was out due to injury and that meant his powerplay heroics won’t be there to boost KXIP. Mandeep Singh came in his place and Jordan replaced Neesham in the lineup to bolster the death bowling.
SRH won the toss and chose to chase, as the surface had a bit of greenery about it. Probably Warner wanted to use his ace pacers, Sandeep Sharma and Holder, to strike a few early blows in the top-heavy KXIP batting. Punjab batting first meant that the new opening pair of Rahul and Mandeep will be tested upfront.
Mandeep didn’t look in his sorts tonight and was dismissed early. A matured Gayle and the consistent Rahul took on the mettle of run-scoring from here on. Risk-free cricket from the duo brought the KXIP score to 66-1 at the halfway stage. It seemed like Rahul and Gayle have withered the early storm and it was up to Pooran and Maxwell to make merry and capitalize on the foundation.
That is when Gayle got dismissed by Holder after losing patience to the barrage of yorkers fired at the Universe Boss. But the magic began from the next over. Rashid Khan came on to bowl and it became evident that the greenery in the pitch was a mere illusion. The apparently-green pitch was holding up and shot-making was difficult on this kind of a pitch.
Rahul failed to read a googly for the umpteenth time in his career and got dismissed by Rashid. The subsequent struggles of Pooran and Maxwell to time the ball only reinstated the stickiness of this surface. Maxwell, Hooda, and Jordan fell to the slowness of the pitch once again as even Holder and Sandeep started bowling cutters on the surface.
Nicholas Pooran showed application and scored 32 off 28 deliveries to take the score to a 126- a score that looked subpar in spite of the slowness of the surface. For SRH, Rashid Khan was brilliant once again, as he scalped 2 wickets by conceding just 14 from his 4 overs. Sandeep Sharma’s death bowling skills have improved by leaps and bounds after the departure of Bhuvi from the SRH set up this year and he looked immaculate as well today. Holder stuck to his lines and played a good role as a 3rd seamer to restrict KXIP to what was thought to be a subpar score in the break.
Warner and Bairstow came out all guns blazing against the hard new ball as Shami and Arshdeep bore the brunt of the explosive partnership. SRH raced tp 56 from the powerplay and it was looking like curtains for KXIP. But there is a reason why I say cricket has more drama in it than a scripted movie. The lynchpin of the KXIp attack, the bowler Rahul looks at whenever he needs a wicket- Ravi Bishnoi once again changed the match on its head along with Murugan Ashwin.
Bishnoi dismissed the dangerous Warner to draw the first blood for his team. Then Ashwin scalped Bairstow and then it was a spin choke applied by KXIP on their opponents. Manish and Shankar found it extremely difficult to get going on a sluggish pitch. The spinner gave nothing away with their tight lines as well. Ravi Bishnoi ended with figures of 1 for 13 in his 4 overs- surreal figures for a U-19 superstar, who bowled to the likes of Warner, Bairstow, and Pandey.
With the spin-choke in place, SRH tried to play crazy shots to break the choke. The funny part about the spin-choke is that the more you try to hit your way out of it, the worse it becomes. Both Shankar and Manish got stuck in the pitch, unable to rotate the strike as the wrist-spinners rushed through their overs.
The best news for KXIP today, however, will be the death bowling of Jordan. For the first time, this IPL he looked unplayable at the death, as he accounted for Holder and Rashid off successive deliveries to bring the match in favor of his team. Arshdeep Singh- the impressive young lad bowled accurate off cutters yet again and courtesy of some excellent death bowling from Punjab, they managed to execute a jail-break by choking SRH 12 runs before the target.
With this victory, the battle will now be directly between KKR and KXIP for the 4th spot in IPL 2020 point table. An interesting match ensues both of them on Monday. The winner will have one foot on the playoff door.