Sunil Narine’s batting thrives on the ‘go and swing’ mantra. This makes him dangerous when he connects, a reason he opens the batting along with Chris Lynn, so that the Powerplay is optimised. Chasing 176/7-Royal Challengers Bangalore were at least 15 runs short on a good surface-Narine gave them the impetus. More so, as Lynn was struggling.
But Narine was not in a mood to flinch. He laid into Chris Woakes, soon after he had nailed Lynn. He cleared his front leg to a slower delivery and sent it over long-on for a six. He repeated the trick and fetched two more boundaries before hammering the final ball of the over, a rank long hop, over deep mid-wicket.
Next was Washington Sundar’s turn. The young offie has earned reputation as a Powerplay specialist, but Narine showed scant respect. He warmed up with a four past mid-off followed by a beautiful lofted drive over long-off for a six. Another six ensued, as Mandeep Singh misjudged a catch at the deep mid-wicket boundary and touched the rope. A single next ball took Narine to a 17-ball half-century.
Narine’s previous best was against RCB last year, a 15-ball half-century. This was a tad slower, but quick enough to flatten the Royal Challengers again.
Finally, Umesh Yadav dismissed Narine in his first over, getting the batsman harried for pace. But at 65/2 after 5.2 overs, KKR had all but sealed the victory. They just needed a decent middle-order partnership to get the job done formally. A 55-run fourth wicket partnership between Dinesh Karthik and Nitish Rana helped the two-time champions secure a comfortable four-wicket win, with seven balls remaining. Given that Narine’s bowling was as usual miserly – he conceded only 19 runs in his first three overs, accounting for Brendon McCullum before giving away a couple of fours in his final over – he was the runaway match winner.
Rana’s double strikes
After 14 overs during the RCB innings, KKR searched for options. Vinay Kumar’s bowling profligacy upfront had put the hosts in a spot. Brendon McCullum smoked two fours and a six off Vinay in the very first over of the match to get past 9,000 T20 runs and more importantly, it gave RCB an electric start. Early introductions of the wrist-spinners, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, put the brakes. But AB de Villiers unleashed the heavy artillery upon his arrival. Back-to-back sixes were his opening salvo. Narine was swept over backward square. Mitchell Johnson was hit for a six and a four after de Villiers made a successful review against a caught behind decision.
Virat Kohli, playing second fiddle at the other end, with an eye to bat the distance, got into the act, clipping Chawla over deep mid-wicket. It was an incredible shot as the ball was pitched wide outside the off stump and was spinning further away. The RCB skipper thrilled a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens with the shot of the match. Suddenly the run rate was climbing, thanks to a 28-ball 50-run partnership between de Villiers and Kohli.
To make matters worse for KKR, a part-timer had to be used at that stage because Vinay wasn’t going to bowl his full quota of four overs. Karthik brought in Rana. In 47 T20 matches prior to KKR’s IPL opener this term, Rana had four wickets at an average of 40.00. His economy rate, 8.42, too, didn’t inspire confidence. He started off with a half-tracker, which de Villiers clobbered over deep mid-wicket for a six. The home fans groaned, while the away section rejoiced. Under pressure, Rana bowled another short ball, but de Villiers tried to hit it a little too hard, top-edging the delivery to Johnson at long-on. The batsmen had crossed over and Kohli faced the part-timer next ball. He got a yorker that breached his defence and crashed into the middle stump.
Rana’s celebrations were a little over-zealous. But when you have the RCB batting royalty in your bag in successive balls, some excess is forgiven. Mandeep saved the hat-trick, sweeping the next delivery to the fine leg boundary, but Rana had done his job with a bonus card. His double whammy kept RCB in check, Mandeep’s back-end blast notwithstanding.
Brief score: Kolkata Knight Riders 177 for 6 (Narine 50, Karthik 34*, Woakes 3-36) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 176 for 7 (De Villiers 44, McCullum 43, Rana 2-11) by four wickets