Synopsis: Knight Riders drop catches but still win the match, courtesy Mystery Narine and Andre Muscle
Kings XI Punjab opener Murali Vijay was trying his best to get out, but Kolkata Knight Riders’ fielders perhaps wanted him to stay. They turned up for this game butter-fingered. The dropping of catches became almost endemic.
Captain Gautam Gambhir started the spill-package. It was the second over of the game after the Kings XI Punjab won the toss and promptly decided to bat first on a sluggish Eden Gardens pitch. Vijay tried to drive Andre Russell on the up but didn’t get his timing right. Gambhir, at short cover, didn’t time his jump well and floored the catch.
Vijay celebrated by hitting Umesh Yadav for three fours and a six, but he was a little early in an attempted slog-sweep against Sunil Narine. Brad Hogg at square leg dived to his right but couldn’t hold on to the chance.
Never mind; Vijay popped another one to Umesh at short fine leg off Narine. The fielder dropped the sitter. A sheepish-looking Vijay went too far across his stumps to be out bowled three balls later.
One opener gone, it was Manan Vohra’s turn to enjoy his luck. He attempted a hook off Russell but the ball brushed his gloves and went to Robin Uthappa behind the stumps. The wicket-keeper failed to hold on. Vohra, then, skied one towards mid-wicket but Yusuf Pathan was too slow to react. Kolkata’s catching was atrocious.
Finally, Narine was in his element. He has suffered a lot this season. It was Kolkata’s final group league fixture at home and the ‘mystery’ spinner regained his mojo. Thanks to him, the dropped catches didn’t prove too costly.
Narine was hitting the right length from the onset. He was iffy to bowl his off-breaks in the last game. Today, he bowled a lot of that variety. Judicious use of finger-spun leg-breaks and straighter balls kept the batters guessing.
After dismissing Vijay with a straighter one, Narine induced Vohra into a big drive and grabbed the return catch. He saved his best for the back end of the innings, when Glenn Maxwell was on a rampage.
When Maxwell is connecting his switch-hits well, you know he’s in good rhythm. He unleashed one off Piyush Chawla to get his first boundary. A straight six followed. Hogg was treated with even more contempt. Two fours and a six from Maxwell and another maximum from Wriddhiman Saha — 21 runs were taken from the Aussie’s over. Gambhir turned to Narine, and he delivered.
Maxwell was done in by the extra bounce as Johan Botha took a good catch, running in from deep mid-wicket. Saha, after hitting a six, was fooled by a faster one. Narine finished with 4/19 in four overs. Perfect redemption.
Punjab still put 183 on the board after David Miller carted Russell all over the park and took 21 runs from the final over.
The home team’s chase was nerve-racking. It flowed and ebbed, flowed again before another slump, and eventually came down to one run required off two balls with No.11 —who else but Sunil Narine — on the crease. Things suddenly became very exciting after Hogg was run-out in the last over and Chawla, after hitting a six off Anureet to level the scores, nicked one down the leg side to the keeper. Inexplicably, George Bailey kept his short fine leg at the edge of the circle to allow Narine steal a leg-bye and get over the line. The hosts won by one wicket with one ball remaining to go top of the table. Russell made up for his bowling profligacy, wiping out all the deficit with the bat. While bowling, he had given away 50 runs off his quota of 24 balls. While batting, he made 51 off 21.
The Jamaican has developed into a match-winner this season, and his batting was the difference between the two sides here. At 84/4, Kolkata were under serious pressure. Russell revelled in it.
With 98 needed from 48 balls, Kolkata needed a couple of big overs to pull things back. Russell steered Anureet Singh to the third man boundary, clipped him past fine leg for another four and hit a flat six over mid-wicket to take 16 runs from that over.
Yusuf Pathan took on Axar Patel, hitting him for a couple of sixes and taking a single in the third ball to put Russell back on strike. The Jamaican came up with a six and a four. That 24-run over swung the momentum. Pathan got out to Beuran Hendricks after a 53-run partnership, but Russell marched on. His pyrotechnics changed the game.
The Knight Riders were affected by nerves after Russell was out to a brilliant catch by Wriddhiman Saha off Patel. But Chawla kept calm and connected well to seal the deal. The fans got their money’s worth, the defending champions all but secured a play-off spot.
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