KKR and RCB faced off at the Sheikh Zayed stadium Abu Dhabi, in what was a highly anticipated contest. RCB was having an unreal season by their standards, as they are not only looking good enough to qualify for the playoffs, but they are already competing with DC and MI for a top 2 finish. KKR, for me, has played the worst cricket in the tournament after CSK but has somehow managed to sneak 5 wins from their 9 matches. A win for them here will boost their playoff chances by a massive margin.
KKR won the toss and chose to bat on a surface, that looked to have some green tinge on it. The mighty Russell was missing out because of injury and Narine looked to be still marred in controversy. RCB on the other hand opted for the extra pace of Siraj to rattle the KKR batting. Unfortunately winning the toss was the only win for KKR tonight.
For fans who have just been acquainted with the avatar of Siraj, who gets smashed around the ground in the slog overs, it is essential to know that there is a reason why Kohli keeps on playing Siraj year after year despite having middling returns. Mohammad Siraj is an unplayable bowler for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy. Hyderabad pitches generally aid swing and seam of the red cherry and that is why legends like Azhar and Laxman were so comfortable against pace. Siraj however used the Hyderabad pitches the other way, as he became the highest wicket-taker of Hyderabad in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy taking 41 wickets from 9 matches at a jaw-dropping average of 18.92.
Ranji legends like Ponnam Rahul, Priyank Panchal, and others have found it difficult to negotiate the probing length and raw pace of Siraj. The reason for his struggle in IPL is that the three-quarter length ball on 3rd or 4th stump which is an excellent delivery in test cricket gets dispatched to the boundary in IPL. For the first time ever in IPL, with the tinge of grass on the surface, Siraj exploited his typical test match bowling. He scalped Tripathi in the second over with an away –swinger. His next dismissal of Rana was a peach of a delivery that hit the top of off stump- a dream dismissal for a pacer in test matches. In fact, he proved to be so accurate with his line in the corridor of uncertainty that he bowled 2 maiden overs in the powerplay- something unheard of in IPL cricket.
Gill tried to hit his way out of trouble as he holed out to Morris at midwicket off Saini. Banton got dismissed off the very next over and KKR already lost the match then and there. Coming back from losing 4 wickets in the powerplay makes for an epic viewing experience and RCB spinners ensured that the epic comeback did not happen.
Today was an off day for KKR at the office. KKR should not read much into it, except for DK’s persistent issues with leg-spin this season. He is an excellent player of spin bowling and I was dismayed by his inability to pick Chahal’s googly repeatedly. He kept on playing for the leg-spin and finally was trapped in front of the stumps.
Washington Sundar and Chahal ensured that KKR never reaches triple figures in their 20 overs. Morgan’s lone hand did not get any support from the other end and it was just a procession of batsmen, that never stopped for KKR.
With a target of 85 in 20 overs, Kohli gave Gurkeerat some batting time in the middle, which will boost his confidence quite a bit. Devdut and Finch looked solid once again and RCB is looking like an absolutely different side with the growth of Saini and Siraj, the experience of Morris, and the shrewdness of Chahal. With the present skillset in the squad, I won’t be surprised even if RCB ends up in the top 2 at the end of the league stage.
KKR needs to erase the memory of this match as soon as possible and move ahead in the tournament. Now they need to win 3 of their remaining 4 matches if they want to be eligible for the business end of the tournament.