In Twenty20s, winning a game by a margin of 71 runs, is as good as an innings victory in Test matches. And following the back-to-back defeats against Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were in search of such a commanding performance to keep their campaign back on track.
However, for the KKR think-tank, the most pleasing factor to come out from Monday’s fixture against Delhi, was the inclination towards getting rid of the over-reliance on its two most valuable match-winners — Andre Russell and Sunil Narine.
Yes, there is no denying that the West Indian duo were the chief architects of this triumph. Especially, Russell’s breathtaking 12-ball 41, which included six sixes, which changed the course of the match completely. The Purple brigade was in a spot of bother when he arrived at the crease, with the scoreboard reading 113/4 in the 14th over. But when Russell was dismissed 22 balls later, KKR were well on course for 200 or even more. On the other hand, Narine’s 3 for 18 didn’t allow the lower-middle order of the Delhi batting to put up any resistance towards the end. Russell too chipped in with the wicket of Shreyas Iyer in his first over.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t just a Russell-Narine show at Eden on Monday night. There were useful contributions from the other ‘Knights’, which scripted this memorable conquest.
Let’s have a quick look at those performances.
After losing the toss and being inserted to bat first on a fresh Eden track, KKR wanted to press the accelerator early in the Powerplay, and they sent Narine specifically for that purpose, making him open alongside Chris Lynn. But Trent Boult cut short that experiment. At the other end, Lynn too was finding it difficult to get going. He took nine balls to open his account. Under those circumstances, it was Robin Uthappa who played some lusty blows, allowing his partner to breathe easy.
Uthappa took 18 runs of Shahbaz Nadeem in the final over of the Powerplay, and KKR reached 50 for 1 after the first six overs.
The Karnataka boy had scored 26 of those off just 14 balls and kept the pressure on the Delhi bowlers. Hence, despite the early wicket, it turned out to be a decent start for the home team. Here too, Lynn deserves some credit for hanging around.
Meanwhile, Uthappa eventually got out for 35 off 19 — a knock, which gave the KKR innings much-needed momentum. From thereon, it was the turn of young Nitish Rana to take over.
The left-hander had a confident start against spin when he slog-swept Rahul Tewatia for a six. After that shot, there was no looking back for the youngster. Rana not only kept the scoreboard going with healthy strike-rate, he also played the perfect second fiddle to Russell, when the West Indian was going berserk. His 59 off 35 was as important as Russell’s 41, if not more.
Probably that’s why the commentators had picked Rana as the ‘Man of Match’ instead of the Caribbean all-rounder.
Thanks to the efforts of Russell and Rana, KKR finished strongly. However, in modern T20 standards, 200 is not a safe score by any means. And having already failed to defend a similar sort of score against Chennai, the KKR bowlers had been already under pressure.
Nevertheless, against the power-paced Delhi batting, it was a different script altogether for the Knights. All the six bowlers Karthik used on Monday, had an impact on the opposition. According to the scoresheet, Narine may be the pick of the bowlers but the ground reality is, when he was called upon to bowl his final spell, KKR had already pocketed the game, primarily thanks to the efforts of Kuldeep Yadav (3 for 32), who dismissed a dangerous looking Rishabh Pant and a free-flowing Glenn Maxwell in his consecutive overs.
Those two breakthroughs secured the game for KKR. Narine simply provided the finishing touches later in the innings.
Overall, it was a very satisfactory performance by the ‘Men in purple’. This new-look side finally have started to act together as a unit, or so it would seem. Maybe now it is safe to say that KKR are not entirely dependent on one or two men anymore.