Dubai: Looking for first win in this IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders managament decided to go fall back on their Eden Gardens template - something which had yielded them rich dividends at their homeground in India over the years. It worked for them against a below par Sunrisers Hyderabad in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The purple shirts, right from the days of Gautam Gambhir, would use the mystery spinner Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla to tie down the opposition to a modest total at the hallowed venue - while Kuldeep Yadav emerged later to forge a myriad spin combination. With Chawla being released last year, they unleashed an extra spinner in Varun Chakrabarthy, who redeemed himself with the wicket of the dangerman David Warner and finished with extremely tidy figures of 4-0-25-1.
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Skipper Dinesh Karthik also played his cards right by handing over the new ball to Narine - who had been KKR’s man for all seasons for long now. This had been a common play to slow down the likes of Warner or Chris Gayle who use the pace of the ball to give their side blazing starts - and the job of the KKR bowlers was made easy once Jonny Bairstow tasted a rare failure.
Chasing a target of 143 was not that easy under the prevailing conditions and the long boundaries at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. The Knights were off to a disastrous start after losing Narine the opener and Karthik for nought, and it was here that a matured 92-run partnership between the young Shubman Gill and Eoin Morgan took them home.
After a fair bit of tinkering with the batting position of the young and gifted Gill, the think tank has struck the right recipe for the Punjab batsman in the opener’s slot. He has the technique to cope with the new ball and the maturity to anchor the innings provided he gets enough number of deliveries - and could be the matchwinner for Knights in many more matches this season.
The Sunrisers, on the other hand, will have to go back to the drawing board to address quite a few problems staring at them after losses in first two games. First up, if they choose to keep Kane Williamson in the dugout, the batting line-up looks woefully thin after Warner-Bairstow-Pandey and despite Wriddhiman Saha doing all the hard work at No.4, it’s not fair to expect him to be the solution for the rest of the season.
On the bowling front, the Orange Army seem to have too reliant on the ever-dependable Bhubaneswar Kumar and Rashid Khan as their army of Indian pace bowlers like Khaleel-ur Rehman, T. Natarajan are failing to make much of a dent despite picking up a wicket each on Saturday.
It’s a problem they need to fix quickly, and Jason Holder’s arrival to replace the injured Mitchell Marsh could well be the answer for them.