When Sunil Narine took the first hat-trick of the season in the 15th over, it looked like nothing could stop the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) from registering their second consecutive win.
At that point, the Kings XI Punjab were 96 for 3. But medium-pacer Manpreet Gony, playing his first match for his new franchise, had other ideas. Gony’s blistering 42 off 18 balls meant KKR had a total of 157 to chase. In the end, the target was too much, and KKR fell short by four runs.
The Knight Riders had a shaky start, losing two wickets with just a run on the board before Gautam Gambhir and Eion Morgan stitched 105 runs for the third wicket. But KXIP never stopped snapping at the heels of the defending champions.
Gony was again the star with the ball, taking the all-important wicket of Gambhir (60) while giving away just 18 runs. Morgan, who looked all set for a second match-winning effort, was snapped up by Azhar Mahmood for 47. With both the set batsman gone in the space of 10 runs, KXIP tightened the noose.
For once, KXIP looked destined for a good total. Despite skipper Adam Gilchrist failing again and Mandeep Singh and Manan Vohra throwing away their wickets, the Kings reached 96 for three in 15 overs.
Gony has always had the knack of using the long handle to good effect in domestic tournaments. On Tuesday, he didn't have too many choices. Sitting in the dugout, he had seen three batsmen getting out to Narine's off-break. He first took 15 runs off Lakshmipathy Balaji in the 18th over and then plundered 23 off Narine in the 19th over.
Narine was instrumental in the Knight Riders clinching the title last year. And in the age of extended support staff and video analysts, the West Indian bowler still remains a mystery. It could have easily been his day had Gony not come up with a blitz.
He had David Hussey caught behind to a ball which gripped and bounced, while Mahmood's leading edge was gleefully accepted by Narine.
Next in, Gurkeerat Mann played all over as the Kings were left fighting against the wall. But all his hard work was in vain as KKR choked.