It was yet another exhibition of power-hitting at the Eden Gardens. Irrespective of their positions in the league table, there was a buzz in the 'City of Joy' surrounding Friday night's Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) fixture. And in the end, the crowd got their money's worth.
A high scoring and closely-fought contest with plenty of fours and sixes, a Virat Kohli century, followed by an Andre Russell's onslaught – everything was available at the buffet during this high-voltage game and 60,00 odd people in the stands thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
For a neutral cricket fan, this sort of match is an Indian Premier League (IPL) classic. However, those who have any soft corner towards KKR, would definitely like to erase this fixture from the memories as quickly as possible.
At the first half of the RCB innings and in the second half of of KKR's quest towards the target of 214, the home team completely dominated proceedings. In fact, the coincidence is, both teams scored identical 143 in the last 10 overs of their respective innings. Yet KKR ended up losing this game by 10 runs – their fourth straight defeat and fifth overall in this edition of IPL.
So, let's dig deep here and find out how did they actually manage to do that.
Having lost their previous three matches while defending totals, Dinesh Karthik was a little bit desperate to win the toss and field in this fixture. And eventually the toss went in his favour. On a belter of a pitch and with prospects of dew later in the game, KKR put RCB in.
So, the first hurdle was crossed.
AB De Villiers was not featuring in the RCB team list on Friday night, which made their middle-order significantly vulnerable. And realising that, Karthik seemed very proactive as a captain in the powerplay and attacked the top-heavy opponent. Four out of the first six overs were bowled by KKR's two prime weapons – Harry Gurney and Sunil Narine.
At the start, Kohli and Parthiv Patel, the two RCB openers struggled with their timings. The bowling was tight and wicket initially stopped a little and it was not easy going after the length balls straightway. In fact, with his change of pace and angles someone like Gunrey had the wood over Kohli in his first spell. The RCB skipper edged the first ball he faced, survived a DRS review for an LBW. His first boundary in this innings was a result of a misfield by Shubman Gill in the deep.
At the end of powerplay, RCB had just got 42 runs and lost the wicket of Parthiv in the process. Soon in the ninth over, the youngster Akshdeep Nath was removed by a Russell short-ball.
When Moeen Ali joined his skipper in the middle, the innings was lacking momentum and KKR bowlers were on top of their games.
Nevertheless, it was the English all-rounder, who first made the pendulum swing towards RCB by going after Kuldeep Yadav in the 10th overs. In his second ball Moeen Ali came down the pitch against left-arm wrist-spinner to loft him over long-on for six.
Meanwhile, after 10 overs RCB had a modest 70/2. On a ground where the average first-innings score is above 180, the visitor's effort at that point looked way below par.
Well, then came the twist in the tale – a phase of contrasting 20 overs, which was being absolutely dominated by the visitors.
It started a missed opportunity by Karthik in the 11th over, when the KKR captain did not appeal for a caught behind chance off Russell. The replays showed there was a little spike.
RCB needed that luck and from that point, the Moeen-Kohli duo just went berserk.
It was Moeen, who first adopted a free-flowing approach and soon Kohli decided to up the ante. They both took the KKR bowling to the cleaners. Suddenly the ball started to come onto the bat nicely and under pressure, the KKR bowlers had absolutely no idea of where to pitch the ball. Mooen took a special liking towards Kuldeep, taking 27 in the final over of the match. Anything in Moeen's half was hit to the fence. For the last ball of his spell, Kuldeep changed the angle. He came from around the stumps and produced miss-hit from the left-hander.
Nevertheless, Kohli was there to provide the finishing touches. He took the score way past the 200-run mark and in the process reached the three-figure mark. His second fifty was scored off just 17 deliveries as RCB posted a mammoth 213 on the on board.
Now in the next 10 overs it was the job of the RCB bowlers to join the bandwagon. Dale Styen, in his comeback game for the Bengaluru-based franchise, struck in his very first over and removed an in-form Chris Lynn. Narine too got out fairly cheaply and after playing a few shots. The experiment of sending Shubman Gill at No 3 did not last long as well.
Before the end of powerplay, KKR lost three wickets and scoring rate a marginally above six.
Then it was the bizarre 46 off 41 balls partnership between Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa, which almost batted KKR out of the contest. There was hardly any intent in their batting and the duo even allowed the bowlers bowl a series of dot balls. Uthappa was too slow to get himself going which led to the increase of required run rate.
At the 10-over mark, KKR were at 60 for 3, needing 153 runs in the final 60 balls. The home team looked down and out.
Uthappa's torture eventually ended with an inexplicable 20-ball 9 in the 12th over. And it allowed Russell to come at the crease with his team requiring 133 off 50 balls.
By his standards, the Jamaican began slowly getting 12 off his first 8 balls. Then he went after Yuzvendra Chahal, hitting him for three back to back sixes. By that time Rana had shifted gears as well.
With their sizzling power-hitting, the Russell-Rana partnership brought down the equation to 61 off 18. In the previous encounter between these two teams, KKR chased down 70 odd runs in the last four overs. The Eden crowd was once again up on their feet, anticipating yet another miracle.
Unfortunately, this time Kohli's team had the last laugh.
Steyn and Marcus Stoinis conceded 18 and 19 runs respectively in the next two overs, which left KKR to get 24 off the final over. And despite their best efforts the hosts finished just 10 runs short of RCB's total, which at one point looked way beyond their reach.
It was purely the individual brilliance of Russell and Rana, which took KKR tantalising close to that target. But if their bowlers in the death overs as well as top-order batters would have upped their game a little more, the Men In Purple should have walked away with crucial two points from this encounter.
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