It was at Eden Gardens that Kolkata Knight Riders had lost after registering their first century partnership this edition. It is also at this ground that Sunil Narine boasts of an economy of 5.33 and a record 29 wickets at an average of 14.69. To carve out a win without Narine after yet another century stand --- this time from the openers --- required a special effort from KKR’s bowling.
They did just that, sealing a seven-run victory over Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday.
In hindsight, KKR could have been well served with at least 20 more runs. And thanks to the opening effort of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, they were left with seven overs to add as much as they could to 100/0. Uthappa continued to churn out boundaries after Gambhir was run out but once he departed, KKR seemed to screech to a halt. Brilliantly undone by Sandeep Sharma’s last over, KKR could only manage 26 runs in the last 18 balls. That was bound to hurt them some way down the line.
But what Andre Russell missed out with the bat, he more than made up for by sending back Marcus Stoinis and Manan Vohra in the space of three overs. And when Morne Morkel got rid of Murali Vijay in the first ball of the next over, Punjab once again ran the risk of folding without giving a good fight.
Only this time, they were better prepared. Pushing David Miller and Glen Maxwell down the batting order meant Punjab still gave themselves a reasonable chance of overhauling 164. The equation was tough with Punjab staring at a required run rate of 10 per over at the half-way mark. And after a successful opening burst from KKR’s pacers, it was over to spin, which is always considered the Achilles heel of most overseas batsmen.
The hours put into practice against spin before this match though put Maxwell in a better position. He showed proof of that by first smashing Piyush Chawla for a straight six before going for a reverse slap for a boundary. Maxwell was more severe against Brad Hogg in the next over by hitting 14 runs in three deliveries before completing his fifty with a single. Even Shakib Al Hasan wasn’t spared by Maxwell when he slogged him for a huge six in the 15th over.
It took a massive googly from Chawla to ultimately dislodge Maxwell, who was trapped leg-before trying to go for another of his reverse shots. Just when it looked like KKR had pretty much wrapped up the game after dismissing Miller, two consecutive sixes by Axar Patel off Russell gave the game an unexpected twist. Gambhir though backed Russell to bowl the last over. This time, he didn’t disappoint his captain.