They say desperate time calls for desperate measures. Well, the belligerent batting display of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on a 45-degree Saturday afternoon in Indore, has been a perfect testament to this old saying.
Last week, the back-to-back defeats against defending champions Mumbai Indians had severely hurt KKR’s playoff chances. Especially after the 102-run thrashing on 9 May, the team looked down and out, so much so that team's co-owner Shah Rukh Khan had to apologise to the fans for the ‘lack of spirit’ from his players.
Meanwhile, with a negative net run rate, the game against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) was almost a must-win fixture for Dinesh Karthik’s boys. But, Kolkata started the crucial encounter on a wrong note when the opposition skipper Ravichandran Ashwin won the toss and made the visitors to bat first. The ideal blend of a flat wicket and short boundaries always makes Indore’s Holkar Stadium a chase-friendly venue, especially in a T20 game. Before this match, all IPL matches at this venue this season have been won by the chasing team.
Hence, following the toss, Karthik and his team knew they had found themselves with their backs against the wall and something extraordinary was required to get the result in their favour.
Well, next we witnessed a sheer exhibition of power-hitting, just what the doctor ordered for the Kolkata-based team. They almost batted KXIP out of the match with a score of 245/6, highest in this eleventh edition of the IPL so far and fourth highest overall in this T20 extravaganza.
The most important aspect about this gigantic batting effort from KKR was the intent shown by their batsmen. Right from the opening pair of Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine to the debutant Javon Searles — everyone who got an opportunity to bat showed a positive intent right from the very beginning.
Amongst the eight KKR batsmen who batted in this game, the lowest strike rate was 141.17. Whereas, five of them had got their runs striking at 200 or more. For the KKR supporters, it must have been a present surprise that finally, players batted to their potential.
Interestingly, the first 20 balls of this innings gave no indication of what was to follow. Only 20 runs came off them, and two boundaries – both inside-edges past the stumps by Lynn in the very first over.
Narine drove the 20th ball straight back to Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who, in an attempt to stop that shot, ended up going off the field with an injured bowling hand. Ashwin brought himself on to complete the over, and the left-handed batsman immediately went after him, smashing his first two balls over mid-on for six and four.
For the KXIP bowlers, that was the start of the carnage.
Next over, Lynn joined the party with a trademark shot over long-on for a huge six. The floodgates were opened.
Even the wickets could not slow down KKR. Following Lynn’s dismissal, Robin Uthappa maintained the pace alongside Narine, who was hitting the bowlers all over the park. The pair contributed 51 off 34 between them as KKR moved to 123 for 1 by the end of the 11th over.
Unlike most of his previous innings, Narine gave himself a few balls to settle. He scored only seven off his first eight deliveries and 68 off his next 28, by mostly playing authentic shots against both pace and spin.
When Andrew Tye dismissed both set batsmen in the 12 over, it seemed KKR would take a few overs before commencing the final assault. But Karthik and Andre Russell had other ideas. Also, the credit needs to be given to their think-tank for sending their best hitters to the middle ahead of Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill. This was a clear indication of their positive mindset.
The Russell-Karthik pair scored 76 off 31, with the skipper being the aggressor. They exploited Kings XI's field placements brilliantly, especially behind the wicket.
With the trademark scoops over his shoulder and reverse-slapping of good length balls between backward point and short third man, Karthik outscored Russell during the stand and reached first half-century of the season in just 22 balls.
Following the wicket of Russell, Rana and Gill supported the skipper and played handy cameos. The KKR onslaught eventually came to an end when Searles hit the last ball (his first) of the innings for a six over long on. That summed up their effort brilliantly.
In a long tournament like IPL, momentum is the key for success. And following this dominating batting effort at this business end of the league stage, the KKR team management can certainly believe the impetus is with them. Now the challenge for them is to carry this positivity forward in the remaining two games in order to secure a spot in the playoffs.