Andre Russell was the star of the show with the bat and the ball at Eden Gardens on Wednesday as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) beat Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) by 28 runs in match six of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019.
Put into bat, KKR scored a mammoth 218/4 courtesy of half-centuries by Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa. But it was the late carnage by Russell, 48 off 17 balls, which propelled the Knight Riders past 200. In reply, KXIP never got going and were always playing catch-up with the run-rate. Russell was once again handy with the ball, picking up two important wickets of Chris Gayle and Sarfraz Khan. David Miller played a late cameo of 59 but it was too little too late as KXIP were restricted to 190/4.
R Ashwin won the toss and opted to bowl first against KKR. KXIP made four changes from the playing eleven of their previous match with David Miller, Hardus Viljoen, Varun Chakravarthy and Andrew Tye coming in for Nicholas Pooran, Sam Curran, Ankit Rajpoot and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. KKR remained unchanged.
Batting first on a placid track, KKR were off to a rollicking start as Sunil Narine welcomed mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy with 25 runs in his first over. However, both the KKR openers- Chris Lynn and Narine were back in the dugout inside the powerplay overs. From thereon, Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa forged a 50-run partnership to set up the platform for a Russell blitzkrieg. Rana struck his consecutive half-century (67 off 34 balls) while Robin Uthappa remaining unbeaten on a 50-ball 67.
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But it was the sensational batting from Russell which propelled KKR to 218/4. Russell, who hit a sensational 17-ball 48, made full use of a reprieve when he was on three and hammered five sixes and three fours which helped KKR set up a match-winning total.
KXIP’s hopes of chasing down the stiff target were snuffed out early as KL Rahul fell cheaply while Gayle was out in the fifth over of the run chase.
Mayank Agarwal (53 off 34) and David Miller (59 off 40) brought back KXIP into the game. The duo did well, raising 50 runs in 4.9 overs. But with the asking rate rising to 17.2 rpo, the writing was on the wall.
There was also some drama in store in the sixth over when the game was halted for a while with KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik and Robin Uthappa engaging in an animated discussion with the umpires after KXIP were awarded five runs from an overthrow.
On Monday, Ashwin ‘Mankaded’ Jos Buttler which turned the match in favour of KXIP. Today he was at the receiving end after his lapse in concentration allowed Russell a massive reprieve.
The incident happened in the 17th over when Mohammed Shami got rid of Russell for 3 with a perfect yorker. Just as Russell was walking back to the dugout, umpire Anil Chaudhary signalled a no-ball and a free-hit.
While the perception at that point was that Shami had overstepped. But the umpire said that KXIP had one fielder short of the mandatory four inside the 30-yard circle. It was David Miller, who was not inside the circle. It was a harsh yet perfectly legal call by the on-field umpire.
Russell maximised the opportunity and blasted 45 from the next 12 deliveries and take the game away from KXIP.
R Ashwin: “We weren’t focused on small things. Small things cost you in this game. We need to be attentive to the small things for the next game. I take the blame on myself (talking about the no-ball). I thought about 200 was par for this track and that is where the smaller mistakes cost us. We played four games at Mohali and won all four over there. It is important to win games on the bounce.”
Dinesh Karthik: “Obviously a good start to the tournament for us. The way Nitish played was beautiful. Got to give credit to Robbie for playing through and the start was very good as well. Obviously Russell’s finish was great. It was clear that when Sunil was back from his injury, he had to bat at the top. Always playing away is a good challenge.”
Kolkata Knight Riders- 218 for 4 in 20 overs (Nitish Rana 63, Robin Uthappa 67 not out, Andrew Russell 48; Varun Chakravarthy 1/35, Hardus Viljoen 1/36, Andrew 1/37).
Kings XI Punjab- 190 for 4 in 20 overs (Mayank Agarwal 58, David Miller 59 not out; Andre Russell 2/21).