Punjab beat Kolkata by five wickets in match 45 of Indian T20 League 2021 to keep their playoff hopes alive. Kolkata were sent in to bat first after losing the toss and they managed 165 in 20 overs with the help of 67 runs from Venkatesh Iyer. In the second innings, an opening partnership of 70 runs between KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal and a match-winning cameo by Shahrukh Khan took Punjab over the line in 19.3 overs. Let’s look at the talking points from the game.
Eoin Morgan’s poor form
Nothing has gone right for the Kolkata skipper in the second leg of the tournament. In his four outings in UAE, Morgan is yet to cross the 10-run mark. He scored seven against Mumbai, eight against Chennai, a duck vs Delhi and a two against Punjab today. The Irishman was not too impressive in the first leg of the tournament either, and overall has only 109 runs in 12 games at an average of 10.90 and strike rate of 100.92. He now has the most single digital scores in the ongoing season – 9, and is followed by Nicholas Pooran (7) and Riyan Parag (6).
Morgan has not been able to perform for England either, having only 92 runs in seven international innings in 2021. But with Kolkata doing fine without his contributions, Morgan still has a chance before he is finally dropped and someone else – Dinesh Karthik in all probability – dons the captain’s hat.
The unstoppable Venkatesh Iyer
Until the resumption of the tournament on September 19, not many knew who Venkatesh Iyer is. But in no time, the left-hand batsman from Madhya Pradesh grabbed headlines. The 26-year-old scored an unbeaten 41 on debut, which helped Kolkata beat Bangalore by nine wickets. He put up an even better performance in his second game with a 30-ball 53, on the back of which Kolkata got the better of Mumbai by seven wickets.
This was followed by a score of 18 in the third game, before Iyer grabbed headlines once again, but this time for his bowling. In his fourth game – the one played between Kolkata and Delhi – Iyer the medium pacer picked up two wickets for 29 runs in his four overs, once again helping Kolkata get over the line.
Against Punjab – which was Iyer’s fifth outing, he top-scored for Kolkata with a 49-ball 67 that was laced with nine boundaries and one maximum. Interestingly, Iyer has now joined the list of most runs by Indians in the tournament after the first five innings. Rohit Sharma leads the chart with 235 runs, followed by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag – 207, Paul Valthaty – 205, Prithvi Shaw – 193 and Iyer – 188.
Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana chip in
After Shubman Gill departed on seven runs, Rahul Tripathi joined Iyer and scored 34 off 26, finding the boundary four times. Later, Nitish Rana scored a quick 18-ball 31 during which he hit two fours and as many sixes. After them, though, none of the next four batsmen could get going. Morgan went for two, Karthik for 11, Tim Seifert for two, while Sunil Narine remained not out on three.
Only 16 off the last 14 balls for Kolkata
Kolkata’s middle and lower middle order could not capitalise on the foundation laid by Iyer, and managed only 44 runs in their five overs while losing four wickets. Off the last 14 balls, they scored just 16 runs. After Mohammad Shami gave away only seven runs in the penultimate over, Arshdeep Singh conceded the same number of runs in the final over while also cleaning up Karthik on the last ball of the innings. The 22-year-old medium pacer was the pick of the bowlers, grabbing three wickets for 32 runs in his four overs. Along with Karthik, his two other victims were Gill and Rana.
Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul lay the foundation for Punjab
Openers and friends Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul took Punjab to 46-0 in the powerplay overs and shared a 70-run partnership between them. While Agarwal scored a 27-ball 40, KL Rahul hit a 67 off 55 laced with four 4s and two 6s. The Punjab captain now has five fifties this season and is on top of the run charts with 475 runs at an average of almost 60.
Punjab’s middle order stutters
Punjab’s middle order comprising Nicholas Pooran, Aiden Markram and Deepak Hooda collectively managed only 33 runs. Pooran scored a 7-ball 12, Markram a 16-ball 18 and Hooda a 4-ball 3. After the 32 in Punjab’s first game of the second leg, Pooran has managed only 22 runs in the next three games. Hooda, too, has not been of much help to the team since the resumption of the tournament, scoring only 44 runs in four games.
Shahrukh Khan finishes off in style
The big-hitting batsman from Tamil Nadu played a match-winning knock in what was his first game of the UAE leg, but surely not the last. After the collapse of the middle over, Khan scored a 9-ball 22 at a strike rate of 244.44 to take Punjab over the line with three balls to spare.
Andre Russell’s injury – a growing concern for Kolkata
For the second successive game, the all-rounder sat out with an injury, which is a growing concern for the two-time champions. Winner of two MVP awards, Russell picked up a hamstring injury during Kolkata’s fixture against Chennai on Sunday in Abu Dhabi and has missed the next two games since. His absence was clearly felt by the franchise both in the batting and bowling department in the match against Punjab. To make matters worse, Lockie Ferguson was also not in the XI due to concerns over his fitness. As a result, Tim Siefert got to play his first match while Shivam Mavi replaced Sandeep Warrier in the XI.
What next for the two teams?
With a five-wicket win, Punjab have now climbed to the fifth position on the points table with 10 points. And while Kolkata have the same number of points, their superior net run-rate has placed them on number four. For both the teams, their last couple of league games are a must-win to make it to the playoffs. If Mumbai beat Delhi tomorrow, Kolkata will be displaced from the fourth position and go down on the wrong side of the table.