IPL 2021: Knights make Capital gains

KKR’s chokehold suffocates DC. Narine bowls a worldie

Five dot balls brought about a well-set Shubman Gill’s dismissal and a wicket-maiden for Kagiso Rabada. Then, Ravichandran Ashwin made one hang a bit more in the air and spin away to settle the score with Eoin Morgan. The two had got into a heated exchange after Ashwin was dismissed during the Delhi Capitals innings. The latter bellowed a ‘come on’ in the Kolkata Knight Riders captain’s face after getting his man.

KKR’s run rate suddenly slipped below six runs per over, but chasing 128 for victory they basically needed two good overs from thereon. Nitish Rana hit two sixes in a Lalit Yadav over and although the excellent Avesh Khan (3/13) saw off Dinesh Karthik, Sunil Narine laid into Rabada with two sixes and a four to take his team to a three-wicket victory, which consolidated KKR’s position in the top four.
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Rishabh Pant’s bowling selections – not using Anrich Nortje’s pace straightaway against Narine and using up his spinners early – was questionable. At the same time, the DC skipper didn’t have enough runs to defend.

KKR’s chokehold

The Sharjah sticky dog, or sandy-dog based on one’s preference, was an antidote to DC’s cricketing style. The ball never came on to the bat and the slowness of the pitch took the sting out of their fast bowlers.

The Powerplay was the key for DC to build the platform for a big total. Without Prithvi Shaw, out injured, they missed aggression upfront. Steve Smith’s conventional cricket held up one end, but it didn’t put the KKR bowlers under much pressure. Shreyas Iyer could have raised the tempo, but Narine had reserved a beauty for him.

Only 39 runs were scored in the Powerplay. DC reached 50 in 8.2 overs, their slowest in this year’s IPL. Three figures came up in 16.3 overs. The DC innings didn’t have a single six.

It’s another matter that the Sharjah pitch requires improvement ahead of the upcoming T20 World Cup, but attributing DC’s crawl to a slow surface only would be disrespectful to the KKR bowlers and Morgan’s fine captaincy.

Narine was at his vintage best. Venkatesh Iyer has been a revelation. Only five months ago, he was languishing in obscurity. Now he is making his presence felt as a medium pacer also. Morgan was confident enough to give Iyer an over at the death, as the bowler returned with figures of 2/29 from four overs.

DC’s innings started to regress from the 13th over after Smith got out for 39. They needed someone to bat through, something that Rana (36 not out) did for KKR later. In the next three overs following Smith’s departure, DC added just 17 runs for three more wickets. That was where the game was lost.

Narine’s worldie

Six metres from the popping crease, length-wise, and around 90 kmph in speed; that had been the recipe for success for spinners on this pitch. Through his 2/18 from four overs, Narine rolled back the years. It was important from KKR’s point of view to remove Shreyas Iyer, arguably the best player against spin on either side, early. Narine bowled a worldie to clean him up. The ball drifted away before breaking back, catching Iyer in two minds.

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