It was a virtual faceoff in the IPL playoff race and Kolkata Knight Riders edged ahead after registering a comfortable win over Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on Friday.
Shubman Gill scored an unbeaten fifty as KKR overhauled KXIP’s total of 183-6 with seven wickets and 12 balls in hand.
KKR are now tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad on 12 points but need to win their next game and other results to go their way to qualify. Punjab, however, are most certainly out as they need to beat Chennai by 160 runs and hope Sunrisers lose to RCB by 100 runs.
Warrier strikes early
KKR seamer Sandeep Warrier had a dream opening burst as he accounted for Punjab openers Chris Gayle and KL Rahul. The seamer first got Rahul with a slower one before snaring Gayle with the go-to ball against him in T20 cricket – short ball.
It was left to the likes of Nicholas Pooran (48), Mayank Agarwal (36) and Mandeep Singh (25) to rebuild the innings. However, the main impetus came right at the end.
Curran tees off
All-rounder Sam Curran is always a reliable bat, even if his seamers might not be so. On Friday, the left-hander showed his full range of strokes as he hit seven fours and two sixes during his 24-ball 55 that took Punjab past 180.
Death overs specialist Harry Gurney bore the brunt of his hitting, getting spanked for three fours and a six off the last four balls of the innings.
Kolkata realistically only needed to negotiate Mohammed Shami and Ravi Ashwin as the rest of the Punjab attack of Arshdeep Singh, Murugan Ashwin and Curran isn’t the best going around.
KKR youngster Gill has been enjoying his time at the top of the order and he celebrated with his second successive fifty. His short arm jabs through midwicket and late cuts through point stood out as Gill remained unbeaten on 65 off 49 balls with five fours and two sixes.
The rest of the line-up simply needed to give him company, which they did with Chris Lynn (46), Robin Uthappa (22) and Andre Russell (24) doing enough. Captain Dinesh Karthik finished the game with two overs to spare by hitting a 9-ball 21.
Time to bring out the calculators folks. The IPL 2019 playoff qualification race is in full swing and with four teams fighting to the last remaining spot, fortunes are dependent on team’s own results and failures of others.
Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians have made it to the next stage, leaving four teams in the race. On Saturday, Rajasthan Royals travel to Delhi, looking to keep up their end of the bargain and hope other results go their way.
A win alone won’t be enough for Rajasthan as they will also need Sunrisers Hyderabad to lose later in the day against RCB and for the winner of KXIP-KKR match to lose the last match.
Rahane back in charge
Helping Rajasthan in this arduous task is Ajinkya Rahane, who is back in the captain’s seat for the last league game after a remarkable turn of events.
The top order batsman was removed as skipper after their eighth game following six defeats. Steve Smith was appointed as captain but he is back with the Australian team to prepare for the World Cup.
Other senior players like Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes are also not with the team anymore, leaving Rahane as the only person left for the job, which makes for an awkward situation.
Nonetheless, Rajasthan need to somehow win against the already qualified Delhi. The washout in their last game against RCB has hurt Rajasthan’s chances.
What should make the job slightly easier for Rajasthan is the absence of star Delhi pacer Kagiso Rabada, who has been ruled out of the tournament following back trouble.
With the pace ace unavailable, Rajasthan can hope for slightly easier time but there will be a lot on the line for Delhi as well, who will aim for a big win to improve their net run rate and better their chances of making it to the first qualifier.
Delhi will also be desperate to put the disastrous effort in their last game – where they were shot out for 99 by Chennai’s spinners – behind them.
Delhi Capitals: Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Colin Ingram, Axar Patel, Sandeep Lamichhane, Chris Morris, Jagadeesha Suchith, Amit Mishra, Trent Boult
Rajasthan Royals: Sanju Samson (wk), Liam Livingstone, Ajinkya Rahane (wk), Rahul Tripathi, Riyan Parag, Stuart Binny, Mahipal Lomror, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas
It’s a virtual shootout in the playoff race when Kings XI Punjab host Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday.
Both teams looked like securing their spot a long time back but lost their way in the middle of the season and now there is only one spot left with CSK, Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians through.
The loser of tonight’s match will be out of contention for all purposes.
Who will prevail in the crucial clash? Catch the updates below.