Unpredictable and Unbelievable! Surprises and Shocks! That’s how the last week was! The changing points table made it difficult to guess about the four teams that will enter the knock-out stage of the IPL cricket tournament. The knock-out stage, where four top qualifying teams will play 4 matches to reach the finals, will begin from November 5 and conclude with the final that is scheduled for November 10. All these matches will be played in Dubai.
Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Shikhar Dhawan, Ben Stokes, Manish Pandey in batting, and Varun Chakravarty and Mohammad Siraj and Shami in bowling were the star performers. Some of them gave victories to their team against better-placed opponents. The orange cap for scoring the most runs this season is donned by KXIP's K.L Rahul for scoring 595 runs in 12 matches. Delhi Capital's Kagiso Rabada dons the purple cap for taking the most number of wickets - 23 in 11 matches.
Kings XI Punjab, who were at the bottom at the end of the first leg, moved to fourth place after beating Kolkata Knight Riders by 8 wickets. Man of the Match was the Universe King Chris Gayle, who along with Mandeep Singh, guided them to win with 7 balls remaining. When KL Rahul was bowled out when the team was at 47 runs, the strike rate was more than 10. But Gayle was never under pressure; he instead cheered up Mandeep.
Mandeep, who lost his father before the last match and still played well, was even more determined and had resolved to remain not out till the end. And he did. Gayle advised him to play his own game, and the lad obeyed. He scored 66 of 55 balls and remained not out. The pair put on 100 runs when Gayle was outscoring 51 of 29 balls. But then, KXIP was safely placed, requiring only 3 runs to win with two overs left. Since Chris Gayle's inclusion in the team (he did not play a single game in the first leg), KXIP has won all five matches!
Earlier KKR was in trouble as they lost Rana(0), Tripathi(7), and Dinesh Kartik (0) for just 10 runs. But the skipper Morgan, along with Shubhaman Gill, counter-attacked, and the pair put on 81 runs off just 46 balls before he was out. He scored 40 off 25 balls. 10 overs were remaining with 8 wickets in hand. It looked like KKR will score around 200 on the small Sharjah ground.
But as it happened in previous matches, their middle-order caved in, and after that, nobody except Ferguson (24) helped Shubhaman (57), who was fighting a lone battle. No other batsman reached double-figure. Shami took 3 for 35, and Jordan and Bishnoi two each to restrict KXIP for 149/9. KKR is now placed 5th in the points table due to a better net run rate.
Even CSK, who was at the bottom of the table then, defeated RCB to win by 8 wickets. They restricted RCB to just 145 runs. Virat (50) and de Villiers (39) put up some fight. Sam Curran took 3 wickets for CSK while giving just 19 runs. CSK reached the given target with the help of Ruturaj Gaikwad (65* off 51 balls) and Faf du Plessis' partnership of 45 runs for the first wicket and remained not out till the end. While Rayudu (39 off 29 balls) did most of the work in their 67-run stand, Dhoni came and took the team to their fourth win in 12 games, but are still at the bottom with no hopes for the knockout. RCB bowlers looked off-color, and Siraj conceded 29 off just two overs, making the job easy for CSK.
Kolkata Knight Riders shocked Delhi Capitals, who were on the top of the points table. Varun’s performance was unbelievable. His bowling analysis was five wickets for 12 runs off just three overs! With Nitish Rana (81) and Sunil Narine (64), KKR scored 194, which seemed easy for DC with their strong batting lineup. But that was not to be.
After losing two wickets for 13, Shreyas Iyer (47) and Pant (27) put on 63 runs and DC looked comfortable at that stage. But soon after Hetmyer was out at the team total of 95, they lost Iyer, Stoinis, and Axar Patel in succession, adding just 17 runs; now it was just a matter of time. With just four overs left, they needed 82 runs but managed only 23 runs enabling KKR to win by 59 runs. Varun Chakravarti was declared the man of the match.
Earlier in the week, KKR seemed to have lost their way against Royal Challengers Banglore as they scored a meager 84 runs off 20 overs - the lowest score by a team batting full 20 overs! The credit for KKR’s low score goes to the unbelievable bowling by Siraj, who at one stage had bowled two overs and took three wickets without conceding a run! He had the final figures of 4-2-8-3! Only Morgan tried to save them by scoring 30. RCB won easily, losing only two wickets with Siraj being declared as the man of the match.
Manish Pandey’s unbeaten 83 off 47 balls saw Sun Risers Hyderabad winning easily against Rajasthan Royals. Batting first, RR scored 154/6. With Manish Pandey getting good support from Vijay Shankar (52* off 51), SRH had no difficulty, even though Warner (4) and Bairstow (10) were gone earlier in the innings. They lost no more wickets and finished with Manish hitting a winning six. He was declared the Man of the Match. This win by 8 wickets raised SRH’s hopes of making it to the knockout stage.
However, on Saturday, SRH lost from an almost winning position. Keeping Kings XI Punjab in check, they restricted the team to score mere 126 runs for 7 wickets. KXIP’s total seemed like a cakewalk for SRH because of their earlier win. But they choked at the last stage and could manage only 114 runs losing all wickets, and thus the match too. A result that no one had expected! Good bowling by Sandip Sharma, Holder, and Rashid - who took two wickets each, restricted Punjab batsmen and never allowed them to score freely. Only K. Rahul (27) and Pooran (32) gave a semblance of a fight. They lost wickets at regular intervals, making it look like a lost cause.
But Punjab never lost hope, and their bowlers bowled admirably. Warner (35) and Bairstow (19) gave them a flying start of 56 runs. But Manish Pandey was gone for 15 and after that, only Vijay Shankar (26) put up some resistance. The next six batsmen surrendered without reaching double figures, and four of them even failed to open their account. But the credit goes to Arshdeep Singh, who took 3 wickets for 23, and Jordan helped him taking the same number of wickets while giving away only 17 runs. KXIP, thus keeping their winning streak, recorded their fourth win in a row.
KXIP had won by five wickets against DC on Tuesday. Batting first, DC put up a respectable total of 164 for five. Shikhar Dhawan scored an unbeaten 106. But he fought a lone battle as he got no support from the other five batsmen, who together made just 58 runs. Except for Pooran (53), none of the KXIP batsmen reached a half-century. But Gayle (29) gave the good footing, and Maxwell (32) carried his good work to give a glorious win to their team. Deepak Hooda and Neesham had no difficulty and scored 15 and 10 runs respectively to take the team to the tape, remaining unbeaten. Thus, KXIP’s winning spree continued later in the week as well.
On Friday, Mumbai Indians defeated CSK fair and square. They won without losing a wicket. Trent Boult, who took four CSK wickets, was declared man of the match. Batting first, CSK struggled to score 114 for 9 and looked as if they had given up. Sam Curran put up a lone fight scoring 52 runs. But it was too late at that stage. Somehow, Shardul Thakur (11) and Imran Tahir (13) were able to take their team to the three-digit mark. Boult conceded only 18 runs for his scalp of four. Bumrah and Chahar took two wickets each.
In the second innings, Ishan Kishan and Quinton de Kock looked as if they wanted to finish the match at the earliest, and they did just that! They played 37 balls each. De Kock scored 46 and Kishan 68 without any pressure and hit the 4s and 6s at will. No CSK bowler could check them and MI finished the match in just 12.2 overs. MI was riding high at that time.
But Rajasthan Royals brought MI on the ground on Saturday. They successfully chased the huge total of 195 easily at Abu Dhabi. At one stage, it looked difficult for RR as they lost Steve Smith at 42. Because at that time, they required 154 with 92 balls left.
But Stokes, the best all-rounder in the game today, found his touch when it was needed most and slammed an unbeaten 107 in 60 balls. Along with Stokes, Sanju Samson too scored a helpful 54 off 30 balls and remained not out to give his team an unbelievable win with an unbeaten partnership of 154. For MI, Hardik Pandya (60 of 25 balls with 7 sixes) with Tiwari put on 64 runs after Suryakumat Yadav and Pollard were out in the 13th over. After that, with his brother Krunal, he added 30 off 11 balls, while Krunal’s contribution was just three!
MI will have to think about their attack after this hammering. Other teams will get a boost against MI from this efficient display of Stokes and Samson. Their attack, which was supposed to be well balanced and best of all, looked brittle. Now, they will have to select the bowlers carefully and use them wisely, according to the situation and condition of the pitch.
46 Matches are over and only 10 more matches remain. Which 4 teams will enter the knockout round? If only it was that easy to answer! With the unpredictable dynamics of the points table and the net run rate, it is difficult to say who will be the four teams, and in what order. Well, let us keep our fingers crossed and wait. Bye till then!
Women’s team wins yet another title in Chess:
In the meantime, the Women's chess team and Men's chess team were winners and runner-ups, respectively, in the Asian Nations Online Chess Championship. The Women's team must be praised because they won in the absence of top players, Koneru Humpy and Dropnavali Harika. With Mary Gomes leading them from the front, they won the final 6-2 against Indonesia. Along with Mary, R. Nandita, Padmini Raut, Bhakti Kulkarni, R. Vaishali gave their best.
The Men’s team was beaten by Australia. They lost 3.5 to 4.5. Here also, it was the second string playing. B. Abhiban, S. Sethuraman, K. Shashikumar, Nikhil Sarin, and S. Ganguli were the players. Congratulations to them!
In Badminton, however, in the Danish open, K. Shrikant lost in the quarter-final and Lakshya Sen in the second round. They were playing for the first time since the pandemic started.
A. S. Ketkar
(The writer is a sports journalist who previously worked with Maharashtra Times.)