IPL 2021 | Punjab Kings Road to UAE: It wasn’t smooth sailing but greater challenges lie ahead
15 Sep 2021
Royal Challengers Bangalore were blown away by a Sunil Narine storm at Sharjah on Monday, 11 October in the Eliminator of the Indian Premier League 2021. The Trinidadian starred both with bat and ball and brought a premature end to Virat Kohli’s stint as an RCB captain in the cash-rich league.
Coming into the game, RCB were expected to pull away after having a brilliant season this time around, but on the night succumbed to the class of a modern day great, who simply was indomitable at the 22-yards in the UAE.
Choosing to bat first on yet another sluggish T20 track, RCB were off to a flying start against the Knight Riders but failed to keep momentum once the powerplay ended. However, they could not hold onto the same and got choked out by some tremendous bowling from the trio of Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine. First, the KKR bowlers made it difficult to score runs outside the powerplay and then kept on picking wickets on a regular basis from the 10th over.
This meant that RCB were stifled out, and they could only get to 139 runs despite closing the powerplay at 53 runs for the loss of just 1 wicket.
RCB still had the tactical advantage over KKR, who have had a misfiring middle order throughout the season. And with the track slowing down considerably, it would seem that RCB were going to make a game out of this.
However, things did not really go their way and a good opening stand between Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer provided Kolkata with a strong base off which they could go on to win this game.
The young openers matched RCB neck to neck and put up 41 runs inside 6 overs. Gill was the first one to depart having been outfoxed by a sensational Harshal Patel slower ball.
The middle overs did provide for a good combination with RCB bowlers doing a good job to stifle out the opponent. Just when it seemed like the scoreboard pressure was getting the better of KKR batters, RCB captain decided to bowl Australian Dan Christian in the 12th over and that is when all hell broke loose.
Christian, a specialist cutter bowler, got the full treatment from newcomer Sunil Narine, with the Trinidadian depositing him for three sixes in his first three balls.
At a point when KKR required 60 from 54 deliveries, that over opened the floodgates reducing the pressure to 38 off 48 balls.
From here it was just an easy task to tick away runs and KKR did that with ease with the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan and Shakib al Hasan. They might not have looked assured while grabbing hold of each run, but they did enough to close the game with two balls remaining.
The game marked the end of Kohli’s captaincy and his 9-year trophy drought at the RCB. It also made RCB the only team to have been knocked out of the Eliminator in back to back seasons, a record that Kohli could have done away with.
Speaking at the end of the game, Kohli summarised the loss stating that the 15 run over (Dan Christian to Narine) deflated their changes in the game. he praised the KKR spinner and stated that their high quality bowling ended up being the difference on the night.
"Their spinners dominated the game in the middle overs. They kept taking wickets there. We had a great start and probably should've tried to build on. It was more about quality bowling instead of poor batting. (Bowling effort of RCB) Outstanding. Been the hallmark this season. But tonight that big over in the middle deflated our chances in the middle. We fought till the last. But 15 runs left out there with the bat and a couple of big overs with the ball."
Winning captain Eoin Morgan echoed the sentiments and heaped praises on his spinners stating that someone like Sunil Narine makes t look ridiculously easy when he is on song.
"Narine makes it look very easy. He bowled outstandingly well. Throughout the innings, we continued to take wickets. Good start from the bowlers, and we were in control in the chase. A quite like it [having three spinners around[. It is a huge privilege when there are world-class spinners around. They continue to get better and better."
He signed off by saying that for the KKR batting unit, it is all about adjusting to the conditions and they are confident that they will carry their learnings into the next game.
Experts had a lot to observe in the game, and here is a compilation of the best tweets reflecting how things went about in Sharjah on Monday night.
The Sharjah pitch has been talked about a lot since the restart of the IPL and it was no different tonight.
It looked like it had been put together just about to make things easy for the team batting first before the true nature would be revealed.
The pitch played out the same way and it would be dreadful if the next game were to be played in this strip again.
Before all the mayhem took over, it is worth remembering that it was the New Zealand speedster Lockie Ferguson that started the RCB downfall. He picked up the wicket of Dedutt Padikkal and slowed down Virat Kohli who was looking in great touch.
Ayaz Memon took notice of the same and pointed out what a belter of a season the speedster has had.
Padikkal’s form since the restart of the IPL has been a worry for a section of the RCB fans. A Twitter user had some stats to back up the same and argued that Padikkal really needs to sort this critical deficiency in his batting out.
Once Padikkal was removed, KKR built immense pressure on the RCB batting line-up using the magic of Varun Chakravarthy. This allowed Narine to bowl more attacking lines, keeping the length of the ball around 4-6 meters from the batsman.
Not only did Narine manage to dismiss KS Bharat in his first over. He returned with consistent wickets in his second, third and fourth over as well, dousing the entire RCB firepower.
Popular cricket account on Twitter, Johns pointed out that Varun Chakravarthy has had an impeccable record in this edition of the tournament and his tight lines have really borne fruit for other bowlers who have bowled around him.
On the night, Sunil Narine also had another unique stat to his name, pointed out by statistician Kaustubh Gudipati.
The game on the night came down to the final over where KKR needed 7 runs off the final 6 balls. It could have been 9, if only the ICC could look into a grey area of its ruling.
Cricket Twitter has been vocal about this for a while now and once again an instance came to the fore that at the moment when an LBW shout was referred back to the third umpire for a DRS check, the runs (if taken) were no accounted for, despite the ball being counted. This meant that RCB were two runs short on the night, a margin might or might not have made difference at the end of the day.
Returning to bat in the second innings when KKR found themselves in trouble, Sunil Narine once again dragged the team out of the hole, putting out yet another man of the match performance in the cash-rich league. He absolutely destroyed Dan Christian who was bowling his first over and took the game away from the Bangalore based franchise in a jiffy.
All was not lost for the RCB though, as Harshal Patel became the joint highest wicket-taker in a single IPL season, equalling the record of Dwayne Bravo.
This game marks the end of an era for RCB, who could be building a completely new core under a new captain in the next year's mega auction. Kaustubh put up something interesting on the night about Virat Kohli, something that truly sums up his journey as an RCB captain.
With this win, KKR now are into the 2nd Qualifier of the Indian Premier League 2021 and are now going to face last year's finalists Delhi Capitals.