By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
SHARJAH: Notwithstanding a personal tragedy, Mandeep Singh displayed character of steel to steer Kings XI Punjab to a record fifth successive victory in the Dream11 Indian Premier League at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Monday.
Overcoming the demise of his father a few days ago, Mandeep played one of the best innings to pay rich tributes to the departed soul. The dashing opener scored an unbeaten 66 to guide KXIP to a comfortable eight-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders.
With 12 points from as many matches, KXIP continued their wonderful comeback story to stay in contention for a berth in the playoffs. Both KXIP and KKR have 12 points each but on the basis of better net run-rate, the KL Rahul-led side has moved up to the fourth spot relegating their rivals to fifth position.
Chasing a modest target of 150, KXIP got off to a steady start through KL Rahul and Mandeep. They mixed caution with aggression to put on 47 runs for the first wicket in eight overs. Tournament’s highest run-getter Rahul (28: 25b, 4×4) looked good for another big innings but was trapped leg before by Varun Chakravarthy, who, incidentally, was selected to the Indian Twenty20 squad for the upcoming Australia tour.
Chris Gayle joined Mandeep and the pair maintained the tempo. In fact, Gayle dominated the bowling with his typical ruthless style. The veteran was involved in a huge 100-run partnership for the second wicket with Mandeep, who represents Punjab in the Ranji Trophy.
Just when it looked the two would take KXIP to home, Gayle departed while trying to play a slow bouncer over the short third-man’s head. The lack of pace in the Lockie Ferguson’s delivery resulted in a simple catch to short third-man fielder Prasidh Krishna. The 28-year-old Mandeep remained unbeaten on 66 off 56 balls. His match-winning knock was laced with eight boundaries and a couple of sixes.
Earlier, Shubman Gill slammed a brilliant half-century but KXIP bowlers produced an outstanding performance to restrict KKR to an attainable total of 149 for 9. Put in by KXIP skipper Rahul, KKR were rocked by a triple strike early in their innings as they were reduced to 10 for 3 in the second over.
Glenn Maxwell dismissed opener Nitish Rana in the first over to give KXIP a perfect start. Mohammed Shami then struck twice in one over to send back Rahul Tripathi and former captain Dinesh Karthik. KKR were in a spot of great bother.
Gill (57) and Eoin Morgan (40) counter-attacked ferociously. The two added 81 runs in nearly eight overs by maintaining a healthy run-rate of around ten per over. At the halfway stage of the innings, KKR were well placed at 90 for 4.
However, just when it looked KKR would pull off this one as well, Ravi Bishnoi struck. Morgan tried to sweep the young leggie but was caught at the deep square-leg fence. This turned out to be the turning point as KKR lost momentum after Morgan’s dismissal. Morgan cracked 40 in 25 balls with the help of 5 boundaries and a couple of sixes.
Gill got to his seventh fifty in the IPL but failed to stay on till the end. The 21-year-old opener faced 45 balls and hit three fours and four sixes to lend substance to the innings. Ferguson hammered some boundaries towards the death to carry KKR to 149. Ferguson remained unbeaten on 24 off 13 balls.
On Tuesday, Delhi Capitals (14 points) will square off against Sunrisers Hyderabad (8 points) at Dubai. It is a must-win game for SRH.
Brief scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 149 for 9 in 20 overs (Shubman Gill 57, Eoin Morgan 40, Lockie Ferguson 24 not out; Mohammed Shami 3-35, Ravi Bishnoi 2-20, Chris Jordan 2-25, Glenn Maxwell 1-21, Murugan Ashwin 1-27) lost to Kings XI Punjab 150 for 2 in 18.5 overs (Mandeep Singh 66 not out, Chris Gayle 51, KL Rahul 28; Lockie Ferguson 1-32, Varun Chakravarthy 1-34) by 8 wickets. Man-of-the-match: Chris Gayle (KXIP).