The interval between two innings in a T20 match is short. Much shorter than your liking. But what you don't expect is for a match to be almost over, even before you have properly settled down in front of the TV for the second innings.
It was not as if the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were chasing 50 runs against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Sunday, nor did the skies open up suddenly, putting the match in jeopardy.
RCB got to 158 on the back of a late surge. Forty-three runs were scored in the last three overs of the RCB innings and the last over went for 21 runs, with two fours and two sixes. The final score was about 20-25 runs less what RCB would have wanted, but still, it was not one that could be sneered at.
The total was eminently defendable. All that was required was some good, disciplined bowling. Teams have defended 160-ish totals in the tournament before, and there was no reason why RCB couldn't do it.
Unless, that is, they ran into a violent attack from the KKR batsmen. And that is precisely what happened. The Kolkata franchise was boosted by the return of the big-hitting Chris Lynn, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would be back opening with captain Gautam Gambhir – perhaps calling an end to the experiment of opening with Sunil Narine. In any case, the Narine experiment had not reaped the desired results lately.
But, as the players came out for the KKR innings, something unexpected happened. Though Lynn walked onto the pitch, Gambhir was not seen accompanying him. Was it Colin de Grandhomme? No. Yusuf Pathan? No. Lo and behold, it was Narine.
Gambhir pulled another rabbit out of the hat by sending Lynn and Narine together to open. The West Indian all-rounder's (yes, he now has to be called an all-rounder) promotion to open the innings had surprised to no end, but it is clear that there were more surprises in store.
KKR made their intentions loud and clear. They did not just need to win the match, but had to do so by a big margin – to overtake Rising Pune Supergiant, who had toppled them from the second spot on the points table.
Finishing in the top two would give KKR a second bite at the apple in the playoffs, if they fail the first time, to qualify for the final. Lynn and Narine were sent in with a mandate to go full throttle from the get go.
And that's exactly what they did. Lynn started from where he had left off, before getting injured, and hit Aniket Choudhary for two fours and a six off three consecutive balls in the first over. He then got two fours and a six in the third over, bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal.
Narine, who had hit just one boundary till then, faced his Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies mate Samuel Badree in the fourth over, and simply went berserk. He hit a hat-trick of sixes off the first three balls, hitting through the line and peppering the long-off area, followed by a four off the next ball, pulled over short fine leg.
Narine took 25 runs off that over but he was not done yet. He continued his attack in the next over as well, carving a hapless Sreenath Aravind for three boundaries on the trot. It put the bowler totally off his line and length, forcing him to bowl two back to back wide deliveries.
The RCB bowlers were clearly rattled. The next delivery was smoked by Narine again, over long on this time, for another six. And with that, he brought up his 50 off just 15 balls – the joint fastest in the history of IPL.
It is a record that he shares with teammate Yusuf Pathan, who had put Sunrisers Hyderabad to the sword three years back. It was also easily the fastest fifty this year, breaking the record set by his partner at the crease, Lynn, by a good four balls.
Who would have believed at the start of the tournament that Narine would be the holder of that record, in a tournament boasting of the likes of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, David Warner, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
But, credit goes to Gambhir for using Narine as an opener. At a smaller scale, the move has proved to be as successful as the ones to have Virender Sehwag and Shahid Afridi opening the innings by their respective captains.
Narine celebrated his fifty with a four, but Lynn was not to be left behind. He hit Chahal for two sixes and a four in the sixth over to move one run shy of a fifty of his own. It took KKR to 105/0 at the end of the six overs – the highest team total in the powerplay in the history of the league, beating the record set by the erstwhile Chennai Super Kings against Kings XI Punjab in 2014.
Lynn soon got to his half-century, off 21 balls – only two more than the one against Gujarat Lions a month back, which had been the fastest this season till this match. On a normal day, Lynn's destructive innings would have been the cynosure of all attention. But Sunday was no normal day. Such was the impact of Narine's assault that Lynn looked to have been playing the role of a sheet anchor.
Kolkata lost a few unnecessary wickets in the urge of end the match quickly, which slowed them down. Gambhir, coming in at number four, also got stuck for a bit. In the end, KKR got to their target in the 16th over, scoring 54 runs in 9.1 overs since the powerplay.
That was less than even run-a-ball, after having scored at 17.5 in the first six overs. If there could ever be a criticism of KKR's performance on Sunday, it would be this: They should have won it much, much earlier.
RCB's campaign is, on the other hand, going from bad to worse with every game. It was their 10th loss out of 13 matches, and for the second time against KKR this season, they were absolutely pulverised and were at the wrong end of several records.
This had to be a grudge match for RCB, after they were shot out by KKR for the lowest total ever in the IPL, during their earlier meeting this season, at the Eden Gardens. Playing at home, one expected Kohli ad company to show more intent and the stomach for a fight. There was a change in jersey colour for RCB, with the team wearing green, as part of their eco-initiative, but their stock continued to be in red.
RCB, however, looked listless. It was almost as if their bodies were there on the ground, but their minds somewhere else. Unlike Gujarat Lions, who are also out of contention for the playoffs, but played with a lot of vigour and pride against Punjab in the second match on Sunday.
Their big guns in batting – Kohli, Gayle and De Villiers – failed for the umpteenth time this season. In fact, Delhi Daredevils and Gujarat Lions would be wondering how they ever got beaten by RCB.
Kohli, specifically speaking, is not used to such debacle and misery, having led India to fantastic success over all comers over the past two years and more. Would the disastrous IPL campaign affect him in the Champions Trophy? Kohli is known to put his heart and soul in any challenge and it would not be exactly great news for India if the IPL has a toll on Kohli's psyche.
KKR, though, would be happy that the comprehensive win has made a playoff berth more than certain for them. But they must be careful not to bask in that glory. They would want to win their remaining two matches, against KXIP and Mumbai Indians, and ensure a top-two finish, and then take aim at the title.
Updated Date: May 09, 2017 01:13 AM