(Cricinfo) Glenn Maxwell and David Miller failed for the first time this season, but that didn’t prevent Kings XI Punjab from extending their winning streak to four this year, and seven overall. Sandeep Sharma had the new ball curling around, Akshar Patel showed why he is the most economical left-arm spinner in the tournament, and Rishi Dhawan also kept it tight before the spearhead Mitchell Johnson finished off the job. It wasn’t a vintage game of Twenty20 cricket, as none of the batsmen could time the ball on a surface on which the heavyweight batting line-up of Royal Challengers Bangalore had been shot out for 70 in the afternoon.
On a green track with plenty of cracks in it, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir had hoped it would be easier to bat under lights, but his decision to bowl first backfired as the ball jagged around after sunset. Set a seemingly straightforward target of 133, Knight Riders lost wickets regularly and, though Suryakumar Yadav briefly threatened to take the game close, wound up well short.
The pillars of the Knight Riders squad when the teams were revamped in 2011, Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan, continued to have miserable seasons. Gambhir pushed himself down to No. 3 after three zeroes in a row, but nearly had a golden duck again, only for Sandeep to put down a difficult, diving return catch. There was further relief for Gambhir as he got a single to fine leg to score his first run of the tournament, but minutes later he handed a catch to short extra cover.
If Gambhir’s IPL troubles have been confined to this season, Yusuf has struggled to recapture the heights of the first cycle of the tournament. Once again he looked woefully out of touch, lbw for 3 after being bringing his bat down late on a Rishi Dhawan delivery. He rarely bowls these days and isn’t the quickest in the field either, all of which combine to put his place under serious scrutiny.
Knight Riders openers couldn’t get any momentum against Sandeep and Johnson, with both dismissed for single-digit scores. Chris Lynn couldn’t recreate the form that yielded a quickfire 45 in his first game of the season earlier this week, and Knight Riders’ chances were nearly extinguished once Robin Uthappa was run out by a precise throw from George Bailey at cover in the 13th over. Knight Riders were 62 for 6, looking for a miracle. It didn’t arrive.
They wouldn’t have expected to be in that position after the performance of their bowlers. Knight Riders’ decision to bring in Piyush Chawla for Vinay Kumar, who bowled them to a last-over win two days earlier, paid off as Chawla bamboozled Virender Sehwag with a googly, and benefited from the long boundaries in Abu Dhabi by getting big guns Miller and Bailey caught in the deep.
Chawla’s intervention came after some hostile new-ball bowling from Morne Morkel, who tormented the Indians in the top order with his 145-plus kmph deliveries, and got the prized scalp of Maxwell with a legstump yorker. Kings XI collapsed from 101 for 4 to 132 for 9 against the wiles of Chawla and Sunil Narine, who took three in an over. It didn’t matter, though, as Knight Riders’ batting woes continued.