Not withstanding a personal tragedy, Mandeep Singh displayed character of steel to steer Kings XI Punjab to a record fifth successive victory in the Dream11 Indian Premier League at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Monday.
Taking into the strides of the demise of his father a few days ago, Mandeep played one of the best innings of his life to pay rich tributes to his departed father. The dashing young opener scored an unbeaten 66 runs to guide KXIP to a comfortable eight-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders.
With 12 points from as many matches, KXIP continued their wonderful comeback story to stay in contention for a berth in the playoffs.
Both KXIP and KKR have 12 points to their credit but on the basis of better net run-rate, the KL Rahul-led side has moved up to the fourth spot displacing their rivals.
Chasing a modest target of 150, KXIP got off to a steady start through KL Rahul and Mandeep. They mixed caution with aggression to put on 47 runs for the first wicket in eight overs. Tournament’s highest run-getter Rahul (28: 25 balls, 4×4) was looking good for another big innings but was trapped in front of the wickets by Varun Chakravarthy, who incidentally was selected in the Indian Twenty20 squad for the forthcoming Australia tour.
Mandeep then was joined by Chris Gayle and the pair maintained the tempo without any discomfort. In fact, Gayle dominated the rival bowling attack with his typical ruthless batting style. The veteran batsman was involved in a huge 100-run partnership for the second wicket with Mandeep, who represents Punjab in the Ranji Trophy.
Just when it looked the two would take KXIP to home, Gayle departed while trying to play a slow bouncer over the short third-man’s head. The lack of pace in the Lockie Ferguson’s delivery resulted in a simple catch to short third-man fielder Prasidh Krishna.
The 28-year-old Mandeep remained unbeaten on 66 off 56 balls. His match-winning knock was laced with eight boundaries and a couple of sixes.
Earlier, Shubman Gill slammed a brilliant half-century but KXIP bowlers produced an outstanding performance to restrict KKR to a paltry total of 149 for 9.
Put in to bat by KXIP skipper Rahul, KKR were rocked by a triple strike early in their innings as they were reduced to 10 for 3 in the second over.
Glenn Maxwell dismissed opener Nitish Rana in the first over to give KXIP a perfect start. Mohammed Shami then struck twice in one over to send back Rahul Tripathi and former captain Dinesh Karthik to put KKR in a spot of bother.
Gill (57) and Eoin Morgan (40) counter-attacked after KKR lost top-order inside the powerplay. The duo of Gill and Moran added 81 runs in nearly eight overs by maintaining a healthy run-rate of around ten per over. At the halfway stage of the innings, KKR were well placed at 90 for 4.
However, just when it looked KKR would pile up a big score, Ravi Bishnoi struck. Morgan tried to sweep the young leggie but was caught in the deep at square leg. It turned out to be the turning point as KKR lost momentum after Morgan’s dismissal. Morgan cracked 40 in 25 balls with the help of 5 boundaries and a couple of sixes.
Last match hero, Chris Jordan castled Sunil Narine to turn the tables on KKR and put them in a tough position yet again. Narine tried to hit Jordan towards mid-wicket but played-on.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Pat Cummins departed cheaply to leave KKR tottering. Gill got to his seventh fifty in the IPL but failed to stay on till the end. The 21-year-old opener faced 45 balls and plundered three fours and four sixes to steady the innings.
Ferguson hammered some boundaries towards the death to carry KKR to 149. Ferguson remained unbeaten on 24 off just 13 balls.
On Tuesday, Delhi Capitals (14 points) will square off against Sunrisers Hyderabad (8 points) at Dubai. It is a must-win match for SRH to stay in the contention.
Kolkata Knight Riders 149 for 9 in 20 overs (Shubman Gill 57, Eoin Morgan 40, Lockie Ferguson 24 not out; Mohammed Shami 3-35, Ravi Bishnoi 2-20, Chris Jordan 2-25, Glenn Maxwell 1-21, Murugan Ashwin 1-27) lost to Kings XI Punjab 150 for 2 in 18.5 overs (Mandeep Singh 66 not out, Chris Gayle 51, KL Rahul 28; Lockie Ferguson 1-32, Varun Chakravarthy 1-34) by 8 wickets.
Man-of-the-match: Chris Gayle (KXIP).