Can you lose a match when you need 21 to win off 17 balls? Ask Kings XI Punjab. That’s precisely what they did. Lost a T20 game that was in the bag. Maybe, only Kings XI Punjab can do it in IPL 2020.
The dramatic loss against the Kolkata Knight Riders mirrored Punjab’s troubles. It’s a team with superb openers and little else. Which means they get off to splendid starts only to squander them. And that’s the story of Saturday’s heartbreak.
Punjab bowlers had made good use of a two-paced pitch which made batting difficult. Two youngsters, left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi stifled the scoring, and it needed a brilliant effort from skipper Dinesh Karthik (58 off 29 balls) to haul Kolkata to 164. A total that looked formidable, given the state of the wicket.
When a KL Rahul-Mayank Agarwal show unfolds, no target is too far. It was a good lesson in chasing a target: cut the risky shots and find the gaps and boundaries. It worked very well, and 115 runs materialised. But then this is cricket, a theatre given to high drama.
Why did Agarwal attempt a six when Punjab was cruising? Did Nicholas Pooran have to swipe at Sunil Narine when they were in control? These questions crop up only when the shots fail. And it failed. Some excellent work was laid waste.
Kolkata deserve a medal for perseverance. They hung in there, even when the prospects looked bleak. At the first sign of a breakthrough, they turned up the heat. And Punjab wilted.
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The Knight Riders will take heart from the heart-stopping win. It was a test of their character, and the lessons of this victory will help them in the search for a playoff spot. It was special for Karthik too, a game where he roared back into form.
Punjab will not forget the loss in a hurry. It must have scarred them. It was their match, and they gifted it away. A win could have revived their self-belief. Instead, the loss would hurt, and hurt so badly that they would struggle to return to the winning ways.