Have the Kolkata Knight Riders turned the corner in IPL 2020? Difficult to say. But there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate the emphatic win over the Delhi Capitals on Saturday. The Abu Dhabi match provided some solutions to Kolkata’s problems and that bode well for the games ahead.
Sunil Narine was singularly responsible for firing Kolkata to victory. At 42/3, captain Eoin Morgan would have been a better bet to repair the innings. Instead, Narine came in and did what he does best. His counterattack rubbed off on new opener Nitish Rana and Kolkata ended with a total which was the pillar on which their victory was built.
That was the cue for Pat Cummin’s entry. A wicket off the first ball of the innings sent shockwaves through Delhi, but when Shikhar Dhawan was beaten by sheer pace, the match was lost right there. After all, Dhawan was the man in form with back-to-back centuries. A rebuilding results in rising required run rate, which leads to needless risks. That’s what leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy exploited to gain dream figures of 5-12 and lead Kolkata to victory.
It all started with the Narine blitzkrieg, and that energy filtered through the rest of the team. They realised that this was a match that they could win. Self-belief does wonders. And that will energise Kolkata in the race for the playoffs.
Of faultlines and fixes
The win shouldn’t paper over the faultlines in Kolkata. Rana and Narine may have run into form, but the rest of the batsmen too should shoulder the responsibility to bring in quick runs. Or else, Morgan will be waging a solitary battle. Cummins, Kolkata’s $2.1 million purchase, finally produced early wickets and that’s helped the rest of bowlers to turn up the heat.
If Kolkata continue to bat in this vein, they can keep out the aspirants to the fourth slot in the playoffs. That’s not a worry for Delhi, who may have cemented their place in the last four.
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But the loss highlighted some of their flaws. Did skipper Shreyas Iyer miss a trick? When Dhawan exited, Delhi went into a shell, and the charge looked as if it came a bit late. Maybe, if Shimron Hetmyer or Marcus Stoinis came in place of a rusty Rishabh Pant, Delhi would not have fallen so far behind the asking rate. That involves the risk of losing another wicket quickly. But then this is T20 cricket, punts and gambles are part of it.
When a wicket-taker like Ravichandran Ashwin is taken apart, there’s no other viable option for the middle overs. With two lefthanders at the crease, the left-arm spin of Axar Patel wasn’t much of a help. So the fifth bowler is the weak link. During a run carnage, Stoinis’ medium pace is not ideal. Delhi sure have some problems to ponder ahead of the playoffs.