Dubai, Oct 1 (IANS) Venkatesh Iyer scored his second half-century in his fifth IPL match and Nitesh Rana blasted an 18-ball 31 but Punjab Kings came back strongly to restrict Kolkata Knight Riders to 165/7 in their 20 overs in a crucial IPL 2021 encounter here on Friday.
With both teams in the hunt for a place in the knockouts, Friday’s clash between them was crucial as victory will maintain their hopes of reaching the playoffs. KL Rahul elected to field on winning the toss as he thought the team batting second will have a chance.
But the way Iyer went about the job of piling up runs, Rahul must have been worried for some time as KKR were cruising at 90/1 in the 12th over despite losing Shubman Gill early. Iyer scored his highest score of 67 but after his departure, KKR lost a couple of more wickets quickly and as has happened in the middle overs in the UAE leg of the IPL 2021, the bowling side came back to restrict them. Nitish Rana landed some lusty blows as he scored 31 off 18 balls to help KKR reach a defendable score. Arshdeep Singh claimed 3/32 while Ravi Bishnoi picked 2/22 to help Punjab Kings slow KKR’s progress.
But the first innings belonged to Venkatesh Iyer as the Madhya Pradesh opener added to his growing reputation with another superb innings in his first IPL.
Though KKR lost Gill — bowled by Arshdeep Singh off an inside edge — early, they managed to reach 48/1 in the Powerplay with Iyer and Tripathi held the innings together as they pushed the score towards the three-figure mark before they lost their second wicket.
Iyer was the more aggressive and assertive as he struck some pleasing shots, a couple of switch hits in his nine boundaries catching the eye. He was not afraid to jump out to attack the spinners as Punjab skipper KL Rahul opened the attack with left-arm spinner Fabien Allan.
Tripathi kept the score moving, hitting some good shots of his own, a big six off Fabian Allen being the standout shot.
Iyer went with his job undeterred as he raced to his half-century, his second fifty in five innings, off 39 deliveries, hitting seven fours in the process. Iyer used the gaps in the field intelligently, placing the ball well as made his highest score in the IPL. He was caught by Deepak Hoods going for a six off Bishnoi while trying to push the scoring rate.
He was out with the score at 120 and KKR lost their way in the last five overs though Nitesh Rana struck two fours and two sixes to give it a little push. But in the end, their skipper Eoin Morgan, who was trapped lbw by Mohammed Shami for two, would be a bit disappointed as they lost a chance of posting a bigger total.
Punjab Kings made three changes to their squad. With Chris Gayle leaving the bubble, Fabian Allen comes in for him while Mayank Agarwal has recovered from the niggle and replaces Mandeep. PKBS also brought in Shahrukh Khan for Harpreet Brar.
KKR made two changes to their squad. Tim Seifert makes his debut, replacing Lockie Ferguson while Shivam Mavi came in for Sandeep Warrier.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 165/7 in 20 overs (Venkatesh Iyer 67, Rahul Tripathi 34, Nitish Rana 31; Arshdeep Singh 3/32, Ravi Bishnoi 2/22) against Punjab Kings.