It has been a remarkable turnaround for Kings XI Punjab(KXIP) in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League(IPL). After losing six of their first seven games, the KL Rahul-led side won its fifth match in a row on Monday (October 26), courtesy an eight-wicket thrashing of Kolkata Knight Riders(KKR) in Sharjah.
After opting to field first, KXIP rocked KKR with three quick wickets in the first two overs. Eoin Morgan, the KKR captain, and Shubman Gill then steadied the ship with a counterattacking approach. Gill scored 57, while Morgan managed 40. However, those were the only two notable contributions from the KKR batsmen.
Had it not been for tailender Lockie Ferguson’s late assault – he hit three fours and a maximum in his 13-ball 24* – KKR wouldn’t have even managed 149. Sharjah is a small ground and with the short boundaries and flat batting conditions while chasing, the total was never going to be enough.
In response, KXIP were off to a cautious start. They didn’t lose a wicket but their openers KL Rahul and Mandeep Singh shared a partnership of 47. Rahul departed for 28 as spinner Varun Chakravarthy trapped him in front. Then, it was a Chris Gayle-Mandeep Singh show.
Mandeep couldn’t get going early on in his innings. The arrival of Gayle changed the momentum of the game completely as he smashed two sixes off his first five deliveries. His positive energy rubbed off on Mandeep as well and the 28-year-old batted beautifully and hit his maiden fifty of the season.
“Last game (against Sunrisers Hyderabad), I was trying to score quicker and I wasn’t comfortable doing that. I told Rahul if I play my normal game, I will win it for the team and I had the belief. He (Rahul) told me to play the way I want to,” said Mandeep at the post-match presentation.
Gayle too reached the landmark. His innings included two fours and five sixes. The KKR bowlers were guilty of straying in their their lines and lengths more often than not and could bag only two wickets in the entire game.
Mandeep top-scored for KXIP with an unbeaten 66, while Gayle scored 51 off just 29 balls before falling to Lockie Ferguson.
Rahul was elated with KXIP’s consistent performances. “All five wins, it’s a complete team effort, it’s not one person and one individual,” he said.
“Every game, it’s been different person putting their hands up. Batting’s looking good, bowling’s looking good, we have fielded really well throughout the tournament. I’m happy that everything is coming together and fingers crossed that we can win two more games.”
KXIP and KKR are level on the points table now, but the former has climbed to the fourth spot with a Net Run Rate (NRR) of -0.049. KXIP will now take on Rajasthan Royals on October 30 (Friday) in Abu Dhabi. KKR will face the the already-eliminated Chennai Super Kings side on October 29 (Thursday) in Dubai.
Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 149/9 in 20 overs (Shubman Gill 57, Eoin Morgan 40; Mohammad Shami 3-35, Ravi Bishnoi 2-20, Chris Jordan 2-25) lost to Kings XI Punjab (Mandeep Singh 66*, Chris Gayle 58; Lockie Ferguson 1-32) by eight wickets.
Featured Image Credit: Twitter/@IPL