MAY 3, 2019
Brief Scorecard: Kolkata Knight Riders 185 for 3 (Gill 65, Lynn 46, Shami 1-15) beat Kings XI Punjab 183 for 6 (Curran 55, Pooran 48, Warrier 2-31) by seven wickets
MOHALI – The most pleasing thing about this game were the cameos – the half-century on either side, one score in the high 40s apiece, and – for good measure – an eye-catching cameo from Andre Russell. In a game brimming with high-class batting, Kings XI Punjab set Kolkata Knight Riders what looked a challenging target of 184. Nicholas Pooran’s 27-ball 48 – half of it coming in sixes – saw Kings XI on top early on, before a sumptuously intelligent 24-ball 55 not out from Sam Curran helped his side power to 183. Sunil Narine and Sandeep Warrier had stifled the innings through the Powerplay, but Kings XI’s success at building partnerships following the early dismissals of Chris Gayle and KL Rahul ensured they remained on track to post a competitive total.
It was then something of a pity the bowlers couldn’t back that up and deliver the result Kings XI so desperately needed to keep realistic hopes of qualification alive. Chris Lynn has found himself in a run of form his side had desperately needed after losing their way through the group stages, with four half-centuries in the last seven innings. He fell four short of that mark today, but in 28 destructive balls, he had helped Knight Riders to 62 in the Powerplay. From thereon, Shubman Gill took over.
Ensuring Lynn’s wicket did not result in a slump of the run rate, Gill worked the field expertly for the next six overs or so, with the occasional risk paying off. Handy contributions from Robin Uthappa and Russell helped, but it was Gill’s unbeaten 65 that saw Knight Riders all the way through, and while the game ended two overs early, the outcome – seven-wicket Knight Riders win – had been clear for the best part of the final hour.
Shubman’s teenage kicks
It’s fair to say Shubnam came into this year’s IPL with something of a reputation to defend, having already made his international debut a few weeks ago. The way the tournament panned out hadn’t quite matched the hype though, with a pair of half-centuries interspersed with a string of underwhelming scores. Tonight, he allowed Chris Lynn to do the early damage while biding his time at the other end, and by the end of the 12th over, Gill had accumulated just 34 off 31.
It was only then that he saw fit to launch, with no less than R Ashwin the chosen target for the teenager’s aggression. He charged Ashwin’s first ball to loft it in the air over long-on. A second six went over backward square leg two balls later, and the half-century was brought up with a late cut that would have had the MCC members purring on the first morning of a Test match. Even as the wickets fell at the other end, Knight Riders’ youngest team member had assumed the role of senior player, and eventually saw them through to the end.
Curran’s cerebral knock
Twenty-year-old Sam Curran’s fresh-faced demeanour and slight build aren’t exactly redolent of a typical power hitter, but in conjuring up that absorbing unbeaten 24-ball 55, he managed the best strike rate across an innings for Kings XI all season. Each ball was like a chess move, and Curran was one step ahead most of the way. He used his feet to scoop over fine leg, took the pace of the bowler in his strike to whack him over the top, and found angles to manoeuvre the ball into gaps Ashwin might have thought were impossible to pierce.
The final over from Harry Gurney was such an astonishing display of mental dominance over the bowler it became impossible to tell whether Gurney was bowling badly or Curran playing the innings of the season. The last six balls yielded 22 as a discombobulated Gurney knew not which variation to try, and in the moment, it appeared to have powered Kings XI to a total that looked slightly above par.
Gayle gone early
Perhaps the most telling blow struck all evening was executed in the first 15 minutes. In a game that would see several players produce vital knocks, a half hour at the crease for Chris Gayle might have been enough to see Kings XI home. Instead, a pair of boundaries in the first over was his lot as Gayle struggles with Gurney’s varied pace and Narine’s guile, with the big man getting frustrated at his failure to find the middle of his bat more regularly. Sandeep Warrier, who had a couple of overs ago sent KL Rahul back to the pavilion, pitched one short of a length to Gayle.
It was perhaps shorter than intended, and Gayle would have backed himself to clear the ropes. But with what had happened in the first three overs, Gayle jabbed at the ball early, eager to get himself going. The fielder at deep-backward square had been positioned exactly for that scenario, and it was the first of a number of plans that came together for a Knight Riders’ side that suddenly appear up and running in the tournament again.