Lucknow Super Giants captain K.L. Rahul will look back at tonight’s two-wicket defeat – its first at home this year – against Punjab Kings in an IPL 2023 match at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow with a curious smile. His 56-ball 74, though the bedrock of his team’s innings, once again raised questions about his status as a vintage car among Ferraris in the format.
But his move to hold back leggie Ravi Bishnoi, on a wicket where the ball gripped and turned, till the 15th over nearly proved to be a masterstroke; what with figures of 2 for 10 after two overs. But with seven needed from six, Bishnoi stuttered as PBKS rode on Shahrukh Khan’s blockbuster 10-ball 23 and Sikandar Raza’s 41-ball 57 to snap its losing streak and move to fourth in the points table.
Bishnoi had accounted for PBKS stand-in captain Sam Curran - Shikhar Dhawan was out with a niggle - in his first over before getting Raza caught in his next. Bishnoi’s guile was matched by Mark Wood’s hard lengths at express pace but the lack of a flourishing finish while batting cost LSG dearly.
With PBKS 82/4 in 12 overs, Raza had breathed life back into a dwindling chase when he took 17 off Krunal Pandya in the 13th over, with two sixes and a four. The Zimbabwe all-rounder, at 36, is playing in his maiden IPL and was in sensational T20 form coming into this tournament.
He hit seven boundaries during his knock but also ran well between wickets to keep the Kings ticking on a sluggish surface. When he finally fell, the Kings still needed 21 off 13 balls, but Shahrukh biffed two sixes and a four to resuscitate the chase and eventually took his team over the line.
Earlier, Yudhvir Singh was the pick of the LSG quicks with figures of 2 for 19 in three. He removed openers Prabhsimran Singh and Atharva Taide in successive overs to put an early dent on the Kings chase.
Matt Short, however, played yet another counterattacking knock and was complemented by Harpreet Singh, who was playing his first IPL game in nearly 11 years. But Short’s dismissal followed by Harpreet’s, for a run-a-ball 22, wrested back the advantage with LSG. It was then Raza’s turn to take the chase by the scruff of the neck, which he did expertly.
In the evening, watching LSG openers go about their business in the PowerPlay was an exercise in deciphering two contrasting T20 batting philosophies. On one hand, Kyle Mayers smacked sixes while on the other, Rahul batted to the rhythms of his slow-burn T20 form. Rahul reached his fifty in 40 balls and, along the way, also became the fastest to 4000 IPL runs (105 innings). Sandwiched in between were the dismissals of Mayers and Deepak Hooda, who fell in successive overs.
With LSG 108 for 2 in 14 overs, the crowd expected an avalanche of sixes but Rabada’s twin strikes in the 15th over, removing Krunal Pandya and Nicholas Pooran, snuffed out hopes of a fightback. PBKS’s death bowling, which had been its Achilles Heel, was brilliant tonight, spearheaded by Curran. The English allrounder took 3 for 31 and used his cutters to good effect.
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