The Kolkata Knight Riders suffered an almost defeat from the winning jaws, and the loss of the game from 125/2 after 16.3 overs was unforgivable. They were chasing 136 for victory, but with Shubman Gill exiting, the wickets fell and the dot balls piled up. Dinesh Karthik, Ion Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil
Narine returned to the excavation site without opening their account.

With seven runs needed in the final over, DC captain Rishabh Pant picked up his most experienced bowler Ravichandran Ashwin. Until then, the senior off-spinner was overshadowed by his KKR counterpart Varun Chakraborty. Now or as never before, Ashwin reached the occasion by dismissing Shakib and Narine in successive balls. KKR chief executive Venky Mysore held his head in his hands, paraphrasing Tony Greig‌ as DC fans danced in the corridors of Sharjah.

Furthermore, KKR’s victory was just a big hit and Rahul Tripathi won by three wickets in Qualifier 2, with one ball remaining, to take his team to the final.

KKR’s collective effort

Throughout the second phase of the IPL in the UAE, it is a case of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. Only three KKR players are in their national teams for the T20 World Cup – Eoin Morgan, Varun Chakraborty and Lucky Ferguson.

Against a group of individual ranges, DC boasted an international lineage. They succumbed to the collective strength of KKR, which Tripathi’s match-winning six replicates. Before him, Gill and Venkatesh Iyer added 96 runs for the opening wicket, which eventually proved to be the difference.

Ashwin’s Iyer counter confirmed his cricketing example. The latter moved the deep square-leg fielder towards the deep mid-wicket before moving to the off-stump, low-arm. Iyer swept it nicely in the empty area for a four. Square-off-the-wicket, however, was not his go-to area. 55 of his 41 balls, the left-hander tried to play straight before removing him. The opener was not afraid to charge the pitch against Kagiso Rabada. His reading about Ashwin is amazing. Without his 320 runs in matches, KKR would not have had this turnaround.

Middle overs are suffocating

The pitches in Sharjah are tailor made for KKR, their bowling style is perfect, which makes it a pleasure not to give length and width to the batsmen. Batting first on this platform has become a problem, not coming to bat after the ball has become a little bigger and softer. The evening snow, with the surface becoming a little greasy, made batting second comparatively easier.

When Morgan chose fielding, powerplay was crucial for DC to take the initiative, with Prithvi Shah being their main attacking weapon. After a quick start Shaw quickly walked out, KKR choked and DC sighed.

Middle Overs KKR Domain in Sharjah; Their spinners hit good length and bowl directly on a slow pitch with low bounce. DC sent Marcus Stoinis at No. 3 as a pinch-hitter, but forcing speed on this surface was not so easy.

At the other end Shikhar Dhawan took eight balls and apart from two sixes against Narine‌ he did not see his best performance. DC scored 38/1 in the powerplay and then tightened the KKR screw further.

Between seven and 15 overs, DC scored 52 for the loss of two more wickets. Even in the last five overs, they failed to grow significantly, posting 135/5.

Each bowler contributed. After an expensive first over, Narine came back with 27 runs in four overs. Shakib recovered from Shah’s batting to make 28 in his four overs. Lucky Ferguson bowled fast, claiming Pant scalp in the process. With the exception of the no-ball that relieved Shimran Hetmire, Shivam Mavi also did not leak and cleaned up Stoinis.

Hetmire hit two sixes after the relief and Shreyas Iyer scored another high in the last ball of the innings to give DC an overall fight. As for KKR, Varun Chakraborty is brilliant.

The charisma of Varuna

In this form, he made a strong case as India’s first choice spinner in the T20 World Cup. Varun played a key role in KKR’s middle overs chowk, maintaining an economy rate of less than seven runs per over in the UKE-leg in the UKE tournament. The 30-year-old also has the ability to bowl inside the power place.

Almost every time, when his team needed a wicket, Varun stood up to count. This game is no different. After Shakib and Narine were hit plenty in successive overs, the naive spinner from Tamil Nadu went on the attack in the fifth over and got caught by Shaw leg-before with his first ball googly.

And while Dhawan was looking to speed up, Varun dismissed him with another back of the hand delivery. He finished his spell with 2/26, taking the total of 16 tournaments to 18 for 18 games.

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