Rana oozes class
Nitish Rana is proving to be one of the smartest buys at the auction for Kolkata Knight Riders. The two-time champions bought him for Rs 3.4 crore, which now looks a bargain. Not that the left-hander did something special in the first three matches of this IPL, apart from his double whammy with the ball – Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – against Royal Challengers Bangalore. With the bat, he had gotten starts but failed to capitalise on that. But every time Rana came to the crease he looked assured. A match-winning knock felt like just around the corner. It happened against Delhi Daredevils. Incidentally, Rana plays his first-class cricket for Delhi.
Rana’s 59 off 35 balls, including five fours and four sixes, was KKR’s X-factor in a lopsided contest, which Delhi Daredevils lost by 71 runs. His start was a tad iffy – an outside edge to a Rahul Tewatia’s googly, which Rana misread. The Eden Gardens pitch was slightly two-paced, but the 24-year-old smartly adjusted to conditions and started employing sweep to upset the spinners.
A slog-sweep off Tewatia over the deep mid-wicket boundary got him going. Shahbaz Nadeem was treated with contempt. Rana danced down the track and hit a six over long-on followed by a sweep to the backward square leg boundary. He oozed class. Never did he try to throw his bat at everything. He ran like a hare between the wickets and picked bad deliveries for put-aways. Chris Morris fed him length and was punished. Vijay Shankar bowled short and was flayed. When Rana got out in the 19th over, to a slower ball from Morris, he had taken the game away from Daredevils. He Rana wasn’t done yet. The catch he took at slip to dismiss Shreyas Iyer was a blinder. Bigger things might beckon if he continues to play like this.
Spare a thought for Robin Uthappa, who took the attack to the opposition, after a sedate start by Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine. The first three overs yielded only 12 runs for the loss of Narine’s wicket. Uthappa came and laid into Trent Boult, with three fours in the fast bowler’s third over. The KKR vice-captain then took Nadeem to the cleaners. Tewatia, too, wasn’t spared. Nadeem eventually snapped up Uthappa but not before the latter made a game-turning 35 off 19 balls. Rana, and then Russell, carried forward the momentum.
Russell’s heavy artillery
The dropped chance that Russell survived off Mohammed Shami turned out to be crucial. On his return to Kolkata, Mohammed Shami didn’t allow off the field incidents to affect his game. He gave away only 11 runs in his first two overs and accounted for Lynn. The Daredevils quick came back well after conceding a six to Russell. A slower delivery induced a top edge but Jason Roy misjudged the skier. Russell was batting on seven then. He sent the next two deliveries from Shami into the stands. Three more sixes in Shami’s final over took Russell to 41 off 11 balls before Boult did him in with a perfect yorker. It ensured an imposing total for KKR, Tewatia’s three wickets in the final over notwithstanding.
Daredevils fizzle out
In the last match, Daredevils pulled off a spectacular chase thanks to Roy’s 91 not out off 53 balls. Mumbai Indians couldn’t defend 194. KKR defended 200 without breaking a sweat. Roy’s scalp upfront was important and Piyush Chawla removed the opener in the first over with a slider down the leg side. It was smart work from Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps. More importantly, it was excellent thinking from the KKR skipper to start the proceedings with Chawla.
Shivam Mavi removed captain Gautam Gambhir with a 145kmph thunderbolt. But Rishabh Pant and Glenn Maxwell kept the visitors in hunt with a quickfire 62-run fourth wicket partnership. Kuldeep Yadav, however, accounted for both. Sunil Narine took three wickets towards the end to hasten the finish, becoming the first overseas spinner to complete 100 IPL wickets in the process. Consequently, Daredevils were all out for 129 in 14.2 overs.