Sports

Kuldeep stars with four-for to hand Capitals fourth win

Delhi Capitals 150 for 6 (Warner 42, Powell 33*) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146 for 9 (Rana 57, Shreyas 42, Kuldeep 4-14, Mustafizur 3-18) by four wickets

Part of Kolkata Knight Riders, Kuldeep Yadav didn’t get a single game last IPL. The reason perhaps is that in the two preceding IPLs, he picked just five wickets in 45 overs. In seven overs this year against the franchise that let him go, Kuldeep has taken eight wickets, consigning them to their second defeat against Delhi Capitals. However, it could still be argued that he is still looking for a captain who makes optimum use of him: he bowled just the three overs despite taking four wickets because two left-hand batters were at the wicket.

The part-time offspinner used instead gave Nitish Rana the launching pad for a 30-ball fifty that took Knight Riders to 146 but it proved inadequate against a power-filled Capitals batting line-up. David Warner led the response with a 26-ball 42 but they kept losing wickets as they looked to dominate the chase. Rovman Powell and Axar Patel, though, saw them home in the end with one over to spare.

Early swing

Both Mustafizur Rahman and Chetan Sakariya – in for the injured Khaleel Ahmed – swung the new ball, not letting Knight Riders find any momentum. Venkatesh Iyer, back at the top of the order, continued to struggle. The other new opener, Aaron Finch, tried to dominate Sakariya, but the inswing flattened his wicket. When Venkatesh finally connected a paddle sweep, he found the man at short fine leg. Knight Riders 22 for 2 in 4.3 overs.

Kuldeep magic

Kuldeep came on to bowl at 35 for 2 in seven overs, which meant the batters were already under pressure to get a move on. Debutant B Indrajith tried just that when he faced Kuldeep first, but got too close to the ball and couldn’t get the elevation required to clear long-on. Still needing to accelerate, Knight Riders promoted Sunil Narine, but Kuldeep trapped him in front with the perfect wrong’un. Rana played a forward-defensive to avoid the hat-trick.

Only three boundaries came off the first 11 overs, all fours. Just as Knight Riders built some momentum in the next two overs, Capitals went back to Kuldeep. Pant might have made a questionable call of bowling Lalit Yadav in the 13th over, but his keeping was sensational in the 14th. Shreyas Iyer went to cut Kuldeep, but the wrong’un turned and stayed low to take a thick bottom edge, which went down almost vertically. However, Pant managed to somehow catch it by his shoe laces, showing a great eye, athleticism and fitness.

Three balls later, Andre Russell left his crease against character, and Kuldeep again slipped in the wrong’un. Even though Pant fluffed the take now, the rebound broke the wicket legally. It was now 83 for 6 in the 14th over.

Rana gives Knight Riders something

This is when Pant chose to go funky. There have been 26 instances of a spinner getting three or more wickets in the first three overs in the first innings, but only two of them have not gone on to bowl out. Kuldeep became that second as Pant chose to bowl Lalit Yadav to the two left-hand batters in the middle. Rana took the toll of his part-time offspin in the 17th over, not least because he enjoys a good match-up against offspin. Shardul Thakur went for 16 in the 19th as both Rana and Rinku Singh got stuck in. At 144 for 6 now, Knight Riders could think of 160, having been through a period when they would have taken 140.

Warner keeps chugging along

Capitals were always going to try to take a big chunk off the chase early, especially with their batters. However, Knight Riders managed to pick wickets in the first two overs. The first ball swung a touch to take a leading edge that Umesh Yadav took in his follow-through. In the second over, Mitchell Marsh tried to take down the debutant Harshit Rana, but picked out long leg.

David Warner, though, continued to show why he is among the IPL greats. The quickest batter in the powerplay this year, he kept finding boundaries efficiently without taking risks even though Lalit at the other end found himself stuck. He even managed to paddle Sunil Narine for a four, and when he took down the part-time spin of Nitish Rana, they needed just 67 in the last 11 overs.

Umesh, Narine bring Knight Riders back

Knight Riders had no choice now but to go on an all-out attack. In the 10th over, Umesh bowled the perfect bouncer – head high, cramping Warner – for a catch at fine leg. In the 11th, Narine bowled the small offbreak perfectly to get Lalit lbw. Shreyas stuck with Umesh, who managed to find the outside edge of Pant. It was a different game now at 84 for 5.

Axar, Powell take Capitals home

The asking rate, though, was still not high, and Shreyas had to juggle the fifth bowler’s quota between Russell and other part-timers. When Axar pulled and upper-cut the first two Russell deliveries for four and six, Knight Riders had massive problems. A run-out off the last ball of the over still left the door open.

Powell and Shardul Thakur watchfully played out Narine’s last over, but by now Harshit had walked off with an injury. So Shreyas had to bowl Venkatesh, and he did so in the 17th instead of keeping that over till the end. Powell hit him for a six and a four to bring it under a run a ball, and it took a six each off Tim Southee and Shreyas to end the game.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo


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