KL Rahul scored his 26th Indian Premier League half-century to help his side to an important five-wicket victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on Friday evening.
The Punjab captain scored 67 as the Kings finished on 168 for five in response to Kolkata’s 166 for seven in the desert of the United Arab Emirates after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
Man of the match Rahul almost gave the game away in the final over with his side needing just four runs for victory and part-time bowler Venkatesh Iyer (2.3-0-30-1) having the honour of bowling the final six balls. But Rahul holed out to Shavum Mavi at long-off to leave his side needing four from four with a limping Fabian Allen walking out to the crease.
But with the batsmen having crossed, the big-hitting Shahrukh Kahn clubbed the ball out towards the mid-wicket fence where Rahul Tripathi bumped the ball over the rope for six in trying to take the catch. Controversy ensued in the previous over when Tripathi claimed a forward-diving catch from the bowling of Mavi (4-0-32-1) to dismiss Rahul but the third umpire ruled that the ball touch the surface.
Rahul and Mayank Agarwal (40) gave the Kings the perfect start with an opening stand of 70 from 54 deliveries with Agarwal being the aggressor, smashing three boundaries and three sixes from 27 deliveries. Agarwal was given a life on his first ball faced when the right-hander drove a delivery from Tim Southee (4-0-39-0) straight to Eoin Morgan at short extra-cover but the Englishman put the catch down.
Morgan would redeem himself, taking a blinder in the same position, this time off Varun Chakravarthy (4-0-24-2) to dismiss Agarwal. Nocholas Pooran (12), playing in his 200th IPL match, struck one six before handing Chakravarthy his second wicket, caught by Mavi in the deep.
With the fall of Pooran’s wicket, fans were thinking that a collapse was on the cards as Aiden Markram (18) and Deepak Hooda (3) fell shortly thereafter but Rahul kept his cool, until the final over, to help guide his side to the brink of victory. Khan finished the game unbeaten on 22 from just nine deliveries, having struck one four and two sixes, the second a gift from Tripathi.
Earlier, Iyer scored his highest IPL total, cracking nine boundaries and one six from 49 balls before being caught by Hooda on the square-leg boundary for 67, his second IPL fifty in just five games.
Iyer and Tripathi (34) laid a good foundation with a second-wicket stand of 72 from 56 balls after Arshdeep Singh (4-0-32-3) had dismissed Shubman Gill (7) with a beautiful in-swinging delivery which crashed into the middle stump.
Ravi Bishnoi (4-0-22-2) bowled beautifully, with the leg-spinner breaking the second-wicket stand and then claiming the wicket of Tripathi, also caught by Hooda on the mid-wicket fence.
Nitish Rana looked to stamp his authority at the back-end, smashing two maximums along with two boundaries before being caught by Agarwal from the bowling of Singh for 31 from just 18 balls. Morgan’s lean run with the bat continued, being trapped in front for just two by Mohammed Shami (4-0-23-1), with the veteran seamer also running out debutante Tim Seifert (2) with a direct throw.
Singh then finished off the innings by clean-bowling Dinesh Karthik for 11.