Knights slay hapless Kings with twin tweakers choking momentum in middle overs

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On a slow-and-low pitch, Kolkata strangled Punjab with their spinners in the middle overs. It seemed they wouldn’t get to 100 but Chris Jordan swung his bat around to push the total to 123. The chase got off to the familiar Kolkata wobble, but captain Eoin Morgan and Rahul Tripathi settled the issue.

The finger-flicking spin pair

In the essence of their art, they seem to be soulmates: carrom ball here, an off-break there, some come on a bit slow, others skid on quick. A decade back, their tribe would have been regarded as ‘mystery spinners’; these days there is no real mystery about them, but Sunil Narine and Chakravarthy did the job in the middle overs to strangle Punjab. There was a lot of dew on the outfield, and it would not have been easy as the two kept wiping the ball dry after every delivery, but they held their poise to strangle the run flow. Resultantly, the wickets came, and Punjab dawdled towards a below-par total.

It must be said that wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik got the mood early in this middle-overs spell. “Varudu varadu!” (It’s coming, coming) he would encourage Chakravarthy, along with little tips on the line and angle of attack, and they were often spot on. Chakravarthy kept tweaking and ripping them as did Narine, who carefully expunges joy from his visage after a wicket; in fact, so does Chakravarthy. Both got their chances to play ‘cool’ a few times on the night.

Narine struck in the 12th over with the big wicket of Mayank Agarwal. It wasn’t a great ball, but Agarwal shovelled his pull to the deep midwicket fielder. In his next over, Narine slipped in an 89.1 kmph off-break that threaded the bat-pad gap of Moises Henriques to crash into the stumps.

Chakravarthy joined in the fun with a 96.3 kmph screaming carrom ball that beat Nicholas Pooran’s heave to bowl him. With Prasidh Krishna creating trouble with his short-of-length kickers, Punjab looked like they won’t cross 100 but Chris Jordan’s breezy 30 got them to 123.

Captain Morgan aces the chase

The chase must have prompted a familiar sinking feeling for Kolkata, who were wobbling at 17 for 3, that included a stunning catch. Narine had miscued the heave towards cow corner but the wiry Ravi Bishnoi covered some 30 metres from deep square leg before throwing in a dive to take a sensational catch.

But captain Morgan and Tripathi steadied the nerves with positive intent. They didn’t exactly counterattack but didn’t retreat into a shell either. They played their shots, ran well, and with the fours coming at a regular clip, the run rate didn’t pose any problems. “We knew that if we bat with proper cricketing shots, we can win this,” Tripathi would say later, which is what they did.

Morgan did what he always does, unfurling his calculated charges down the track to seamers interspersed with punchy drives. He didn’t let the required run rate climb at all, as he kept playing the boundary shots every now and then. Most attacks try the short ball at him and so did Mohammed Shami, but on the slow and low Motera track, the left-hander dismissed that threat with a six early on in the piece. He crashed Shami for a couple of fours in the powerplay and once the required rate became less than run-a-ball, settled in to rotate the strike. Tripathi is a free-flowing batsman and though he fell, Karthik hastened the end with a couple of big hits.





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