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As it happened - Kolkata Knight Riders vs Delhi Capitals, IPL 2021, Sharjah

Eoin Morgan's Kolkata Knight Riders are in a mid-table scrap to make the top four. Rishabh Pant's Delhi Capitals are gunning for the top of the table. Big game coming up.

You'll find ball-by-ball commentary here in English, and here in Hindi. If you're in the USA, you can watch today's game on ESPN+ in English, as well as in Hindi.

Rana keeps KKR at No. 4

7.15pm

So the aggressive approach comes off again for KKR. They were chasing a small enough total that they could go all-out attack today, and Nitish Rana has played the perfect kind of attacking knock today. Taking on Lalit Yadav was essential for them, things can get tight if you let the non-regular bowler get away with his overs. Rana made sure he took a calculated risk against him to make sure they didn't give themselves too much to do despite being one wicket away from the lower order. In the end, that has paid off - despite the wickets falling, they were never under any serious pressure.

Narine's little knock, following from a top-notch spell to tie the Capitals down, completely brought down their resistance and contributed to a victory with a decent number of deliveries left. Knight Riders have recognised that they will be in the dogfight for fourth place, and it really helps to keep their net run-rate up. That very net run-rate, the best of the four teams who were in that eight-point cluster before the game, should ensure that they finish this matchday firmly in fourth place. Only a massive victory margin for either Mumbai or Punjab in today's evening game will change that.

So with that, I close off the Live Blog for today. Post-match pieces coming shortly. Have a good one with the next game, where news is that Mumbai Indians have dropped Ishan Kishan.

New year, new Sharjah?

7.03pm

Morgan: My form not really a concern

6.36pm

Our commentators paraphrased what Eoin Morgan said at the toss today: 'My form 'not really' a concern. It goes around like a roller coaster, I try to ride it as I can.'

But a duck in a chase like this might be come cause for concern. He hasn't gone into double-digits so far in this IPL season, and in his last ten games (The Hundred included) he hasn't made a single fifty. That sometimes comes with the territory when you bat 4 or later in this format, but Morgan hasn't exactly looked at ease in this period. Remember, he replaced Dinesh Karthik as captain at KKR. Can they go on longer with no runs from the new skipper? At least with Russell out, his current form significantly thins down their batting.

David Hussey said after their last match that Morgan, as captain, will stay in the XI. So things need to turn around quickly as they chase the playoffs.

What's up with Sharjah?

6pm

You seeing what I'm seeing? Last season, this was the ground to come to and let your batting loose. Look above for the scores made in the first innings at Sharjah last year. Only four innings yielded lower than 150. But more than the scoring itself, it was the promise of coming to a good wicket on a small ground.

That seems to be completely out of the picture this edition. Three first innings so far for a total of eight sixes. None in the first innings of the game today, and more than six wickets have fallen every time. Is this a shot they're taking at neutralising the venue? Shane Warne had suggested three ways he would improve T20 cricket last year, and one of them was to use a Day 4 pitch instead of a "flat road". Some hints here of Sharjah going that way ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Delhi need a franchise record

5.20pm

Old school KKR

4.45pm

They've traditionally played with six or seven bowling options, most of them spinners. They went away from that strategy at the start of this phase, by starting to use Andre Russell a bit more through the middle overs and playing him as the fifth bowler. His injury, of course, has meant they had to compensate in some way. Southee is a more than handy fifth bowler to have, but the smart use of Venkatesh Iyer has effectively made them a six-bowler team and ensured that there were still two overs left from their spinners past the 14th over. That is bound to have an effect on how the Capitals finish this innings off.

Best spinners in the IPL

4.15pm

The numbers back up what we've seen every time KKR have had their spinners on in the middle overs - they're simply the best at dragging an innings back. Delhi Capitals' move to have Smith open hasn't resulted in a great start. They've put up their slowest fifty of the season and will continue facing spin for a few more overs now - which means more risks might be forthcoming.

Smith to open?

3.15pm

With Shaw out injured, it looks like Smith will slot straight into his position as opener. Remember, they were playing only three overseas players after Lalit Yadav had replaced the injured Marcus Stoinis. Smith hasn't had the greatest time in the IPL over the last few seasons, having had indifferent innings with Royals before being sacked from captaincy and then being bought by the Capitals. He's played five innings for 104 runs so far this season, with a strike rate of just under 112. Let's see how the break and a chance to bat in the powerplay affects his game. This is all under the assumption that he will open, of course, because he has looked out of sorts in the middle order and Capitals are unlikely to move Iyer and Pant around.

Smith as opener in T20s: 4 inns, 135 runs, 147.67 strike rate

Final stretch

2.50pm

Kolkata Knight Riders love to play at Abu Dhabi, where only Mumbai Indians have a better IPL record than them. They would have been overjoyed that their first three matches of the second half were held there, and it has showed. With a new combination and approach, they made use of those conditions and nearly made it three out of three before Ravindra Jadeja showed up. Still, they're right back in contention for the playoff, sitting in fourth place. But with eight points, they're tied with three others and this is another opportunity to break that deadlock. We'll have to wait and see if Andre Russell will be available for that after he went off with a hamstring injury against Chennai. Although with Tim Southee being handed a cap, that looks unlikely.

Delhi Capitals are far more comfortably placed, all but through to the playoffs with 16 points on the board and four games to go. They'll be hoping players like Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, and Shimron Hetmyer get big runs in the four matches left.