The cauldron of Sharjah awaited a virtual quarterfinal as KXIP and KKR faced off tonight. KKR had stolen a win from the grasps of KXIP in their first clash of the tournament. This time KXIp wanted to avenge the defeat and complete 5 wins in a row. KKR, on the other hand, was buoyed by their performance against DC and wanted to make most of the momentum. With both the sides eyeing that vital 4th spot, this match bore a huge significance.

KXIP won the toss and chose to field. Both the teams went in unchanged from the previous match. Never change a winning combination is the worst slogan I have ever heard in cricket. That means, you don’t quite know what is working for you in victories and you tend to keep the same combination ahead. KKR exactly did that. Their top-order has misfired in the last match and Narine essentially came to the rescue. But you cannot expect Narine, the batsman to bail you out of trouble every time. KKR should have gone in with an additional batsman in place of an Indian seamer, which unfortunately did not happen.

KKR was shocked early once again. Nitish Rana- their hero from the last match got dismissed by Maxwell in the very first over. With Tripathi and DK once again falling to the seam movement, this time from Shami, KKR were reduced to 10-3. Bad memories of the RCB match started floating in once again, as KKKR lost their top order in a hurry.

I find it quite funny, as to how every cricket expert was criticizing Captain DK for KKR’s decisions, as long as he was in the leadership role. The same experts now criticize KKR team management and not Captain Morgan, since he has donned the leadership role. Whoever be the decision-maker in the KKR squad, he is messing up KKR’s batting order. Eoin Morgan and Ross Taylor are the best No. 4 batsmen going around in World Cricket at the moment and in spite of that KKR is using Morgan as a finisher and not a No. 4 player. DK has demonstrated his finishing skills time and again in the past. He is batting at 4 for KKR. Swapping 2 great players and forcing them to misperform in roles they are not used to perform – Terrible decision making from KKR.

Shubhman Gill and Morgan counterattacked from 10-3. Gill for the first time in the tournament batted with intent, as Morgan took a toll on the KXIP pacers from the other end. Jordan, Maxwell, Shami everybody was taken to the cleaners as Morgan and Gill rescued KKR from the early soup they landed themselves in. The duo scored 72 from the next 6 overs to take KKR to 82-3 at the end of 9.

One of my most favorite spinners in this tournament, Ravi Bishnoi came into the attack and immediately caused disruption in the KKR batting. Morgan was caught at deep square leg, trying to slog-sweep a googly from Bishnoi, and KKR’s long tail was exposed very early in the inning. Suddenly Gill was tied down and he could not rotate the strike and the wrist spinners of Punjab spun a web over the lower-middle order.

Narine played mindlessly, to be honest. Jordan was brought on to dismiss Narine. Despite knowing that KL will be resorting to spinners from the very next over, Narine went for the wild heave to Jordan and got castled. From there on, it was just downhill for KKR as they somehow managed to scrape through to 149 courtesy of a stable half-century from Shubhman Gill. Ferguson chipped in with a few lusty blows at the end but it was too little too late.

KXIP began the chase cautiously. KL and Mandeep seem to have come with a set plan of not losing any wicket in the powerplay overs. They played risk-free cricket and ensured that Cummins goes wickets less sin his 3 overs of the powerplay. Mandeep got stuck at the beginning scoring just 2 off 10 deliveries, but with KL at the other end, there were no panic buttons pressed.

KXIP meandered along to 47 in 8 overs, before Varun trapped Rahul infront of the stumps. With asking run rate bordering along 9, KKR was smelling a possible recovery when the Universe Boss entered the arena. Chris Gayle plays much better cricket against his ex teams be it RCb or KKR and once again it was the Gayle show tonight.

The mystery of Chakravarthy was rendered ineffective by Gayle‘s bat swing. The only way to defeat Gayle with spin is to beat him in flight. With the strength of Gayle and the short boundaries of Sharjah, it did not matter which way the ball spun for Gayle. Chakravarthy induced a few top edges from the big man, but with the short boundaries of Sharjah, it sailed over the boundary.

Ferguson also could not bring in the much-needed wicket for KKR in the middle overs as Gayle raced to a half-century of 30 deliveries. Mandeep played second fiddle and completed a half-century of his own and in the end, it was a cakewalk for KCIp to grab 2 vital points and move to the 4th spot in the table.