IPL 2021 | Hits & Flops as Eoin Morgan's fearless Knight Riders cruise past David Warner's Sunrisers

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Apr 11, 7:48 PM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

The Kolkata Knight Riders defeated the Sunrisers Hyderabad by 10 runs and got off to a near-perfect start in the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League. On the other hand, the Sunrisers Hyderabad were left vulnerable in the bowling department, which was presumed to be their stronger suit coming into the tournament.

The KKR put the Sunrisers on the brink with the help of explosive batting at the top and a near-perfect finish from Dinesh Karthik. Then, bowlers followed suit and although challenges came in the form of Jonny Bairstow and Abdul Samad, the task was taken out of control at the start of the last over.

Although the chase of 188 runs always appeared to be a steep one, the Sunrisers did not help their cause and messed up everything from the batting position of batsmen in the middle phase of the game, to the lacking proactiveness required in big run chases.

Here, we shall decipher the best and the worst performances from the third game of the 14th edition of the IPL between the Sunrisers and the Knight Riders.

Hits

Nitish Rana

Nitish Rana has not had any terrible season in IPL since his debut in the 2016 edition. On the contrary, he has only gone from strength although the journey shifted from one corner to another corner of the country, But, for some reason, he has not found space in the narrative that India have the luxury of emerging batting talents.

He had a decent IPL season last year when the Knight Rider understood his aspects of the game and was promoted to the top. 

The move continued in the first game of the 14th edition and Rana was in no mood to let that opportunity go out of his hands. Rana loves to stay on the leg side of the ball and use his hands to good effect. All of that was on display on the very first ball when Bhuvneshwar Kumar offered him almost a half volley in search of swing with the new ball.

The juggernaut was on and Bhuvneshwar’s new-ball partner Sandeep Sharma could not resist taking hammerings from him.

Having seen him caressing the fuller balls, bowlers started targeting him at varied angles, but the left-hander was at the top of his game. He too made a good adjustment in the batting crease and added touch along with fluent drives to deny Sunrisers' bowlers to rise from the deep hole he was digging along with his partner Rahul Tripathi.

Balls were holding up on the surface at the MA Chidambaram stadium and bowlers tried to reap the advantage of it by bowling cutters. Rana was one step ahead at this front as well and adopted the same tactics that Shikhar Dhawan relied upon in the last game against the Super Kings in Mumbai.

Having faced the first ball of the innings, Rana finished in the 18th over after playing a blinder of an innings that set the game up perfectly for the Knight Riders to cruise while defending.

Rahul Tripathi

Rahul Tripathi had burst onto the scenes on the back of a stupendous IPL season for the erstwhile Rising Pune Supergiants in the 2017 edition. He was impressive in his fearless approach at the top of the order and was an instrumental figure in the RPS reaching the finals in the season. 

Having tasted success at the top of the order, he was pushed to the role of a finisher he was not ready to deliver in and he was staring down at a sliding career in the IPL.

Right after that season, RPS was dissolved and Tripathi made his journey to the heat of Jaipur with the Rajasthan Royals and by all means, the mess that the Rajasthan Royals were in the 2018 season left him a far complicated mess.

The returns started to improve for the right-hander when the KKR picked him up. However, with the abundance of talents in the KKR camp to bat at the top of the order such as Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana, he could not get an extended run last season.

The leadership style of Morgan and Brendon McCullum could just be the helping hand Tripathi was looking for coming into the tournament. Morgan decided to show faith in him on the first night of the tournament and provided him with the opportunity to flourish at the number three position. And, didn’t he flourish with the bat on the night against the Sunrise?

He brought the fearless approach to the fore and deposited Mohammad Nabi over the long-off boundary on the second ball he faced to get himself going.

Having seen Shubam Gill succumbing to Rashid Khan’s variations while trying to attack him, Tripathi could well have opted for a safer approach against the Afghan spinner when he returned for his third over. Tripathi bats with freedom and exuberance and hit him over his head for a classy boundary.

Rana was going great guns at the other end, but Tripathi was not inferior by any means at the other end of the pitch. 

Bhuvneshwar returned with his third over in the 15th over as Warner was desperate to see the back of at least one of Tripathi and Rana. Instead, Tripathi treated him with absolute disdain and plummeted him for 19 runs in that over with a big six and a couple of boundaries. He reached a 29-ball-fifty and the intent with which he batted laid out a perfect platform for the batsmen like Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik to enforce a complete sunset for the Sunrisers on a Sunday night in Chennai.

Jonny Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow has had a terrible last season of the IPL and by the time the Sunrisers reached the business end of the tournament, he was shown the exit door from the playing XI.

Similarly, he has had a terrible time facing spinners in the Test matches against India in the series that preceded the ODI and T20I series. But, he bounced back resounding in the white-ball leg of the series and plundered all Indian bowlers including spinners to all parts of the grounds to make a statement about his firepower.

Like his comeback for England in the ODIs and T20Is after grim failures in Tests, the match against the Knight Riders proved to be another resounding success for the Yorkshireman.

However, his role was tweaked a bit this year having played as an opener last year. He has had great success for England in T20Is batting at the number four position and the Sunrisers were in no mood to unsettle a promising product like Bairstow—the number four batsman in T20 cricket.

He got the opportunity to bat fairly early as the Sunrisers were rocked early in the steep chase. He announced his arrival hitting Shakib Al Hasan over the cover boundary for six with such ease that even VVS Laxman took pride in the shot.

When Russell came onto bowl in the eight over, for some reason, he thought he could bounce Bairstow out of the game. Maybe Morgan would not have communicated with his bowler on the bullishness of Bairstow against the short ball. To be fair to Russell, he deceived him with a bumper that the batsman expected to come a bit slow on the first attempt.

Sadly for the Knight Riders, Russell kept on committing the same mistake and Bairstow got stuck into him. He first smacked a short-pitched ball over the square leg and followed that up with quite a disrespectful shot when Russell provided a real long hop.

Having delayed Pat Cummins from bowling, Morgan decided to challenge Bairstow with the pace and brought the Australian into the attack from one end. He was welcomed with an equally disrespecting manner— over his head, which has now become a trademark shot of Bairstow in the limited-overs cricket.

Then, Morgan used the mystery spinner in Varun Chakravarthy to stop his juggernaut. To Morgan dismay though, the spinner was wayward and provided Bairstow with ample width outside the off-stump and proper length to get beneath to reach a 32-ball-fifty.

He looked threatening for a big one before a ferocious cut shot on a half-tracker outside the off stump from Cummins found the hero of the first innings—Nitish Rana at the point.

His dismissal provided Morgan with a real opportunity to tighten the screws on the Sunrisers middle order and in the end, the task got too big for them to take the side to a win.

Flops

Manish Pandey

Manish Pandey has been a consistent force to reckon with in the Indian Premier League and he was one of the linchpins of the Kolkata Knight Riders which went on to become champions on two occasions in 2012 and 2014.

Indian captain Virat Kohli has received a lot of flack for not managing players like Manish Pandey well enough and not providing them with ample opportunities at the international level.

From one of the prominent contenders in the middle order, Manish has slipped out of the radar and does not find a place in the immediate future before the World T20.

Hence, the IPL 2021 was to serve as the perfect chance for him to stake a claim in the Indian middle order.

Worryingly for him, the first game of the IPL turned out to be a disastrous one for the right-hander. He got to a fifty and was the last man standing with the bat after an unsuccessful chasing attempt by the Sunrisers. But, if he will be honest to himself, he would accept that a lot of his problems on Sunday night were his own makings.

He batted with a lacklustre approach and when Bairstow tried to up the ante from the one end, he batted with subdued tactics. He lacked imagination and could not quite improvise in the thought process to take the game head-on.

Morgan had kept two overs of Andre Russell in his bank to defend runs in the last overs and when the bowler switched to the round the wicket angle, it appeared that KKR have had a proper plan of bowling at the death. He attempted and delivered yorkers on a majority of occasions, outside the off stump.

But Pandey could not do anything to give the bowler any food for thought and kept on failing in his efforts to hit those deliveries beyond the boundary line. 

Manish Pandey appeared to be a reduced version of himself in the game against the Knight Riders. The Sunrisers have had their larger strategic picture around him and Warner would be gutted to see him lacking in intent.

Vijay Shankar

Vijay Shankar’s stocks have nosedived after the famous discussion around the four-dimensional aspects of his game. He was making a comeback in the IPL after getting ruled out of the league fairly early in the last season.

He has had both the platform and necessity to come good with both the bat and the ball. He gets the nod ahead of many other cricketers because he offers at least a couple of overs with the ball along with bullish strokes with the bat.

He was introduced to the bowling attack in the company of Rashid Khan, who was going great with his variations from the other end. But, he provided long hops to both Rana and Tripathi in his first over and conceded 14 runs in his first six balls to send Warner searching for cover. 

Thankfully for the Sunrisers, he found that cushion in Mohammad Nabi who took back to back big wickets of a well-set Rana and Eoin Morgan to bring the game from the position of going completely out of Sunrisers’ hands.

The task was a humongous one for him when he walked out to bat in the 11th over with the Sunrisers needing 57 runs from the last 24 balls. He struggled to get the big shot going from the word go but a half-tracker from Chakravarthy helped him breathe a bit easy. He could not survive for long though and was gone in the line of duty of an overwhelming required run rate.

Both Warner and Trevor Bayliss would get a lot of flack for messing the batting positions, but it won’t come in the favour of Shakar. Instead, they would be scrutinised for preferring him over the likes of Abdul Samad who has been in top form when the team has needed them to go big.

It establishes the downward curve in Shankar’s career and he got the opportunity to reclaim his dwindling if not lost glory but only to squander it. He will be backed by the Sunrisers for some matches before they give up on him, but Shankar must realise the clock is ticking at a rapid rate for him with the talents such as Samad and Abhishek Sharma waiting in the wings.

The game was almost a job well done for the Morgan-McCullum duo at the start of the season. They played the last season well but were not ruthless in their performances and paid the price in the form of getting knocked out based on net run rate. The batsmen were guilty for the result last year, and the intent all of them showed in the game against the Sunrisers had Morgan’s brand of cricket written all over it.

On the other hand, Warner needs to come good at the top and he also needs to relook at the exclusion of Jason Holder who could provide him with a better bowling option than Mohammad Nabi. The orange army needs their bowling arsenal to be firing all cylinders in the coming games given it has been their strongest suit over the last many seasons.

  • Eoin Morgan
  • Dinesh Karthik
  • Nitish Rana
  • Rahul Tripathi
  • Jonny Bairstow
  • Vijay Shankar
  • Bhuvneshwar Kumar
  • Manish Pandey
  • David Warner
  • Andre Russell
  • Pat Cummins
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • Brendon McCullum
  • Abdool Samad
  • KKR
  • SRH
  • IPL 2021

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