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Cricket news - KKR's "near-perfect" game
Varun Chakravarthy became the first bowler to pick a five-wicket haul in IPL 2020.
After bowling Kolkata Knight Riders to a Super Over win against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Lockie Ferguson sent out a polite warning - "We haven't (had) our complete game just yet". As KKR cantered to a massive win over Delhi Capitals - especially after being decimated by Royal Challenges Bangalore - Eoin Morgan felt the side had played the "near-perfect" game.
KKR played seven games in Abu Dhabi where they squeezed in close winsover Kings XI Punjab, SRH and Chennai Super Kings but were also mauled by Mumbai Indians twice and once by RCB. As they move away from the venue, the big win comes as a welcome change in what was turning out to be a shaky campaign. So how did the transformation come up?
The Nitish Rana redemption
Ahead of the contest, Rana averaged just 18. While it wasn't the lack of runs that frustrated head coach Brendon McCullum, it was the lack of intent that left him scratching his head. To ease Rana of any burden, he was sent out to open with Shubman Gill. While his partner failed once again, Rana ensured he recovered from being 17 off 20 at one stage to smashing 81 off 53 to steer the match away from DC's grasp.
Morgan felt it was Sunil Narine's free-flowing batting that rubbed off on Rana. Once Narine opened up against R Ashwin in the ninth over, Rana too decided to go. He took apart Tushar Deshpande first and then Marcus Stoinis to get going. There was no looking back as the pair added 115 for the fourth wicket. "We were trying to add some intent at the top. We felt he was in good form and a bit light on runs. Today it proved that we were thinking along the right lines," Morgan said after the game. "He's a very talented batsman and has shown a lot of promise in the last few seasons as well. This season he's not where he'd like to be. This could well be the start of his campaign kicking off. Today, against the best bowling line-up in the tournament, he played outstandingly well."
DC mess up with match-ups
You don't bowl spin to Narine - it's a fact that doesn't even need a mention in team meetings. Narine, in the middle-order, poses a different challenge for bowling teams. They've used up their pacers upfront and want to save them for the death overs.
When Narine came in to bat, KKR were struggling at 44 for 3 in eight overs. His assault on Ashwin, Deshpande and Stoinis forced DC to go defensive. While teams continue to target Narine with some gun pacers, DC's premier pacers - Rabada and Anrich Nortje - bowled a combined total of six deliveries to the left-hander with one of them being wide.
"It was quite tough," Rabada said. "We had already bowled two overs. We back our bowlers in the team to get wickets and stop the runs. Today it just didn't happen.
"Hopefully, we can get the loss out of the way. The pitch looked like it was easy paced and wasn't gripping much. That forced us to be on the defensive. Rana and Narine batted well. They got the runs flowing. They are quality players who are also allowed to do well."
By the time Rabada dismissed Narine, KKR had already crossed 150 and were scoring close to ten runs per over. DC had been rattled in the middle overs and couldn't come back from that.
Wickets for Cummins ... finally
In ten games before this contest, there were six where Pat Cummins hadn't picked up a wicket. The fact that KKR were able to tame DC early in the chase was because of Cummins nipping out Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. To make things even better for the pacer, he struck on the first ball of the chase.
With Rahane trapped in front, he decided to go around the wicket to Dhawan. The opener had struck two successive centuries before the contest and immediately put pressure on Prasidh Krishna. It took just two deliveries for Cummins's plan to work. A ball from length nipped away and took out the off pole to leave DC struggling at 13 for 2. Shreyas Iyer did try and revive the innings but with Rishabh Pant (27 off 33) struggling, there wasn't much the captain could do.
Varun Chakravarthy - Remember the name!
DC were 64 for 2 at the end of the tenth over and were looking to push on. Ferguson had already bowled two overs and hadn't picked a wicket. Unlike Iyer, who tried to save his pacers for the death to counter Morgan, the KKR captain decided to give Ferguson his third. Iyer struck two boundaries and picked 12 from the over.
Watching from the other end, Pant needed to go as well. Morgan took Narine out of the attack and tempted the left-hander to attack the inexperienced spinner. And he did. A slog-sweep against Chakravarthy led to a thick edge and was caught at long-leg. In the 14th, Chakravarthy dropped Iyer off his bowling but made it up by dismissing Shimron Hetmyer and Iyer in consecutive balls.
Ahead of his third over, Chakravarthy's figures read 2-0-10-3. Stoinis too didn't have much to offer and a googly was too good for Axar Patel as the spinner became the first bowler to pick a five-wicket haul in IPL 2020. "He's been the positive story of our campaign so far," Morgan said about the spinner. "We haven't played our best cricket but today it was close to that. The bowling group had set it up for Varun to come in. Narine bowled well along with our pacers. When he came in, Delhi needed to attack. He bowled really, really well."
Problems still persist for KKR
After a near-perfect game, are you still wondering why KKR still have problems? It was because of one certain individual watching from the stands - Andre Russell. Out with a hamstring injury, Russell will walk into the eleven once fit. The problem for KKR's think-tank will be which overseas player to drop then.
Narine got a half-century to show he's back in form. Cummins picked wickets to shrug the monkey off his back. Ferguson has been key in the wins for KKR. And Morgan is captain. While Russell has struggled with the bat, there's no T20 side in the world that can afford to bench the all-rounder.
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