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Play-off race: Inconsistency torments KKR against KXIP

Kolkata Knight Riders couldn't contain a spirited Kings XI Punjab on Monday as the Punjab outfit defeated the Knights by 8 wickets in Match 46 of Dream XI IPL in Sharjah. The loss forced KKR out of the Top 4 in the points table. Even though both teams are on the same number of points (12), KXIP (-0.049) have edged KKR (-0.510) on the net run rate.

Mandeep Singh and Chris Gayle scored a half-century each to guide KXIP over the line and help them extend the winning streak to five matches. Mandeep (66* off 56), along with KL Rahul (28 off 25), provided KXIP with a strong start and later on stitched a 100-run partnership with Gayle (51 off 29) to see his team home. The KKR bowlers failed to repeat their magic on Monday as none of them successfully managed to create any inroads into the KXIP innings with timely strikes.

Batting first, KKR suffered yet another top order collapse. The top 3 - Nitish Rana (0), Rahul Tripathi (7) and Dinesh Karthik (0) - went back to the hut with a mere 10 runs on the board. Shubman Gill (57 off 45) and skipper Eoin Morgan (40 off 25) steadied the ship with an 81-run partnership and at one point it looked like KKR would end up scoring 180-190 easily. But once Morgan got out, the wickets started tumbling and runs dried up. From 91/4 in the 10th over, KKR were reduced to 149/9 by the end of the 20th over. Barring Lockie Ferguson's unbeaten cameo of 24 (13 balls), there wasn't a single double-digit score.

“When we were three down, it was about getting a partnership. We thought 185-190 would have kept us in the game. But we kept losing wickets. But then that's the nature of the tournament,” Morgan said after the match.

For KXIP, Md Shami (3-35) and Chris Jordan (2-25) were responsible for majority of the damage with the ball. Ravi Bishnoi was also crucial for his economical spell of 2-20 (4). His consistency in the middle overs, which included a wicket maiden as well, forced KKR to go into a shell.

“I think we fell 15-20 runs short. In the middle overs, we were not able to rotate the strike. Had we been able to do that, we could have managed 20-25 more runs,” said Shubman Gill, the highest scorer for KKR on Monday.

KKR next face CSK on October 29 in Dubai and a win will be imperative to keep their play-offs hope alive.