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IPL: Kolkata beat Delhi to keep alive play-off hopes

Kolkata Knight Riders beat Delhi Capitals by three wickets on a two-paced Sharjah track on Monday.

Nitish Rana and Sunil Narine were the two standout performers among Eoin Morgan’s men.

The way Kolkata began their season, no one could have predicted that they will thrash the season favourites in the UAE.

First, KKR restricted Delhi to 127/9, then chased down the total with 10 balls in hand.

Narine replaces Russell to perfection

The target was not as easy as it looked.

Low-scoring totals at the Sharjah Cricket Stadiums are often defended and with one of the best pace cartels in the league, Rishabh Pant and co were very much in the game.

Had it not been for Sunil Narine’s 21-run cameo where he smacked Kagiso Rabada around the park for consecutive boundaries, DC may have gotten away with a cheeky victory like Punjab Kings did it against Sunrisers Hyderabad two days back.

The Caribbean star, who was played in place of Andre Russell, bagged Player of the Match award for his 2/18 and 21.

Narine had a few words of appreciation for KKR bowling coach Kyle Mills in the post-game interview.

“Need to give credit to bowling coach, that’s a plus and that’s been key for me to come back,” he said.

“Batting in the middle-order is challenging. It’s pleasing to see hard work paying off after a long time.”

Nitish Rana holds on

KKR has undergone a few tactical changes since coming over to the UAE.

One of these changes saw Nitish Rana being removed as an opener.

This has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the left-hander.

He is being deployed in the middle-order where he switches position with skipper Eoin Morgan.

At No. 4 in today’s game, the handy all-rounder carried his bat till the end.

His 36* not out meant an easy finish for the KKR after the game went down to the wire.

With eight wickets down and the required number of runs down to a single figure, his shot-making was superb.

On the flip side, Venkatesh Iyer, who replaced Rana as the new KKR opener, has proved why his addition in the playing XI was necessary.

The 26-year-old has a knack for turning up with his A-game either with the bat or ball. After he failed to impress with the bat, he bowled well to end with 2/29.

His yorkers in the death over barred Rishabh Pant from hitting boundaries.

“Felt good with the ball. Always had the confidence that I can deliver with the ball,” Iyer said after the game I do practice the yorker a lot. I practice with my bowling coach Anand Rajan. For me, it’s about accuracy and bowling to my field.”

Morgan finally cheers

Eoin Morgan hasn’t had a lot to be happy about this season until now.

He is taking pride in leading the side to the third victory in the last four games.

Although, his batting form is a serious concern for the Knight Riders.

“On a hot day, things can boil over. Thankfully it didn’t. We all played in the right spirit,” he said as he referred to his on-field spat with Ravi Ashwin.

“And it’s a tough contest against Delhi Capitals. Full credit has to go to our coach Brendon McCullum. It’s his ethos, his mindset, and the boys have bought into that.”

Kolkata Knight Riders 130 for 7 (Rana 36*, Gill 30, Avesh 3-13) beat Delhi Capitals 127 for 9 (Pant 39, Smith 39, Ferguson 2-10, Narine 2-18, V Iyer 2-29) by three wickets.

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