Knights drop the ball, points: Kings benefit from KKR’s fielding errors to stay in Playoff contention

Four spilled catches swing the game to Punjab as Venkatesh Iyer’s knock goes in vain

Four catches, three of them that weren’t taken and one that was deemed not taken cleanly, dramatically swung the match towards Punjab Kings, who hung on for dear life to finally win a close game.

The four ‘catches’ that tell the story

It’s perhaps best to start from the last chance and retrace the path of the game. It came on the third ball of the final over, just after the wicket of KL Rahul. Venkatesh Iyer had the onerous task of defending five runs but it had to be him as match situations at various points had forced Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Eoin Morgan to bowl out his two main spinners and the other seamers. Needing four to win, Shahrukh Khan heaved it towards deep midwicket where Rahul Tripathi, who had already featured in a potentially game-turning moment, was running full tilt to his left dangerously close to the rope. He stretched his palms out as the ball fell from the sky but it popped in and out – and bobbled over the ropes for a six that sealed the game.

The third chance had come an over earlier, with Punjab needing 11 from 10. Rahul had slugged Shivam Mavi to – where else but towards Tripathi at deep midwicket. He charged ahead full steam, dived full stretch and crossed over to the grey area of the close-up zoom-in television. The on-field umpires had to go upstairs and for a moment until the zoomer was called upon, it seemed the verdict would go Tripathi’s way. Once it was magnified, Punjab’s hopes would have risen because a doubt crept in whether he had his fingers extended under the ball or it had touched the ground as he scooped it up. The third umpire asked for a frame to be frozen and concluded that it had touched. Frozen camera, frozen Kolkata’s hopes, and the game burst alive for Punjab.

Now, that second chance when 24 runs were needed from 18 balls. Rahul tried to lap Tim Southee but it popped up weakly between wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik and short-fine-leg fielder Varun Chakravarthy. Karthik charged back, Chakravarthy rushed ahead and it was a lot closer to Karthik who suddenly stopped and pulled out of the catch. Perhaps, he thought it might carry to Chakravarthy but he wasn’t close enough and was just above veering away from the path of collision. The ball plonked to the ground between the two and Karthik too slumped to the turf with an agonised look on his face. He must have feared that the game was lost and it was.

The first of the four chances near the endgame had come just a couple of balls prior with the equation reading 30 from 20 balls. Khan pulled Mavi to deep square-leg where Iyer arched back with a leap and plucked the ball with the right hand but had to release it as he was about to step over the rope. He was trying to scramble back inside for the catch but his left ankle twisted and body collapsed on the rope trying to balance. That six brought the total to 24 from 18 and the game turned inexorably towards Punjab.

Iyer’s beefy knock

A video went viral last week of Iyer picking Virat Kohli’s brains. The advice in summation was to press the front foot forward and react from then on. “It’s easier to go back or move forward from that position,” was Kohli’s suggestion.

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So, how has Iyer gone about his task from then on? His first movement has been to retreat back inside the crease! Not that he has shunned that advice as he goes back and then makes a tiny press forward – feet still within the crease lines. He then makes his attacking move.

Unlike many power hitters, Iyer retains the option to suddenly go all cute with late-cuts and delicate flicks.

One shot stood out from his 10 boundaries. He had just creamed a full slower one from Nathan Ellis to the long-off boundary in the sixth over and when another slower one came next ball, back of a length, he just stood still, collapsed his wrists, and swatted it away wide of midwicket. The timing was jaw-dropping and so was the shot selection.

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