Gill keeps KKR’s playoff chances alive after KXIP win

Shubman Gill struck his second consecutive half century as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) kept their playoff chances alive by defeating Kings XI Punjab by seven wickets in a must-win Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter at the PCA I.S. Bindra Stadium here on Friday.

Gill, who opened the batting with Chris Lynn, remained unbeaten on 65 off 49 balls, his innings laced with five fours and two sixes.

Chasing 184 for victory, KKR were always in the driver’s seat with Gill and Lynn joining hands for a 62-run opening wicket partnership.

After Lynn (46; 22b; 5×4; 3×6) was dismissed, caught and bowled by compatriot Andrew Tye, Robin Uthappa and Gill continued the carnage before the former picked out Mayank Agarwal at long off off R. Ashwin. Uthappa looked good for his 22 off 14 deliveries.

But the day belonged to Gill, who showed superb timing to milk boundaries at will even as Andre Russell, batting at number 4, failed to produce his usual spark with a 14-ball 24, with Mohammed Shami removing him with a well directed bouncer which Tye caught at deep square leg.

The over where Gill took on Ashwin to bring his third IPL fifty in 36 balls was a treat to the eye as the U-19 World Cup winner hit two gorgeous sixes and a silken late cut for a boundary.

Skipper Dinesh Karthik (21 off 9 balls not out) smashed Sam Curran for a six and a four to hit the winning runs in the 18th over, as KKR won with 12 balls to spare. KKR posted 185/3 in 18 overs.

The result saw KKR jump to fifth spot with 12 points and one to play, against already-qualified Mumbai Indians on Sunday.

Kings XI, meanwhile, dropped to seventh in the eight-team points table with one game to go, and their chances are all but over.

Earlier, Curran (55 off 24 balls not out) notched up his maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) half-century with the help of seven fours and two sixes as Kings XI posted 183/6, plundering 58 runs in the last five overs after Karthik asked them to bat first.

Curran, who did not play the last couple of matches, came in to bat when Kings XI were 140/4 after 13.3 overs, having lost Agarwal (36; 26 balls, 4×2, 6×1) and, more importantly, Nicholas Pooran (48; 27 balls, 4×3, 6×4) in quick succession.

The England all-rounder made the most of a reprieve after he was dropped on 17 by Rinku Singh off Sunil Narine, hitting Harry Gurney for 22 runs in the final over, including three fours and a six off the last four deliveries.

Pooran had set the platform with a brilliant knock as he shared 69 runs for for the third wicket with Agarwal.

Sandeep Warrier (2/31) jolted Kings XI early, accounting for both of their top-performing batsmen K.L. Rahul (2) and Chris Gayle (14).

Rahul was the first to go with Chris Lynn taking his catch at mid-on after the India batsman tried to clear the infield.

Warrier then set Gayle up with a short ball which the veteran West Indies opener failed to negotiate, hitting straight to backward square-leg where Shubman Gill took an easy catch.

Kings XI were in some sort of trouble at 41/2 after the powerplay overs. This is when Pooran came to the party, taking the likes of Piyush Chawla, who had a forgettable day, to the cleaners by scoring at a brisk rate.

The hosts were 84/2 at the halfway stage with Pooran going great guns, and KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik failing to stop him even with spinners operating from both ends.

This is when Karthik introduced Nitish Rana into the attack and the move worked as Pooran holed out to Sandeep Warrier at deep mid-wicket, bringing his knock to an abrupt end.

Kings XI Struggled to get going after Pooran’s dismissal but once Curran got going, there was no looking back even after Gurney bowled a brilliant 18th over to leak just four runs and take a wicket.

Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab – 183/6 (Sam Curran 55 not out, Nicholas Pooran 48; Sandeep Warrier 2/31); Kolkata Knight Riders – 185/3 in 18 overs (Shubman Gill 65 not out, Chris Lynn 46)