APRIL 19, 2019
Brief Scorecard: Royal Challengers Bangalore 213 for 4 (Kohli 100, Moeen 66, Russell 1-17) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 203 for 5 (Rana 85*, Russell 65, Steyn 2-40) by 10 runs
KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL – At the conclusion of the first quarter of the match, Kolkata Knight Riders had Royal Challengers Bangalore, the worst team in the tournament by some distance, plodding along at 70 for 2. From that position, they found themselves so thoroughly blitzed by the tournament’s basement dwellers for the next 20 overs they ended up losing by ten runs, despite another blitz from – who else? – Andre Russell. His 25-ball 65 took Knight Riders to within two lusty blows, but carnage in the final ten overs of Royal Challengers’ innings, which saw Virat Kohli’s side plunder 143 runs, meant too much damage had been done. A chase that never really got off the ground whimpered to what, in hindsight, was an inevitable conclusion, with the crucial blows struck before Russell had a realistic chance at scything down the required 214.
Kohli’s timing metamorphised from that of an ancient hourglass to an atomic clock within the space of a half dozen overs as he broke out of his recent rusty spell to smash his first IPL century since 2016. In truth, poor bowling and fielding by Knight Riders, who simply couldn’t stem the tide that began with a 28-ball 66 from Moeen Ali, helped Royal Challengers along significantly. In the chase, Knight Riders lost three wickets in the Powerplay, and Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa were nowhere near matching the required rate. Russell’s arrival galvanised them sensationally as Royal Challengers must have wondered if they would somehow lose again. But Kohli’s brilliance and Knight Riders’ lack of sparkle in the first 12 overs ensured it was a position so impregnable even Royal Challengers couldn’t squander it.
Two halves of Kohli
Harry Gurney, Sunil Narine and Russell all looked on top of Kohli in the first nine overs. The captain nudged and nurdled at one end, looking a shadow of the player he usually is. Fortune played no small part in the fact he remained at the crease till the end of the innings, with many mistimed slogs and pulls landing just short of fielders, or just above them. Even when he reached a half-century, it came off 40 balls, and in modern T20 cricket, that sort of innings usually does more harm to one’s side than good.
But, perhaps buoyed by Moeen’s free-flowing belligerence from the other end, Kohli found his own touch. Nineteen off the 17th over from Gurney and another 19 off the penultimate one took Kohli through to his nineties, and a boundary from the second-last ball of the innings moved him through to three figures. The second fifty had come in 17 balls, and no matter how modern the era, that is often match-winning.
This match had its fair share of excitement, but by the IPL’s high standards the quality of cricket was notably deficient in certain passages of play. Once Royal Challengers got going, Knight Riders’ plans seemed so rigid it appeared every other ball would go for six, and the over from Kuldeep Yadav to Moeen – the 16th over – was perhaps emblematic of this. He went for three sixes and two fours, bowling more or less the same delivery each time. The one occasion the long-on fielder was in the game, he came in and saw the ball sail over his head. It was the start of a horror little passage of play for Kuldeep, who conceded 59 in his four overs. In the final over, Kuldeep overran a ball that ended up going for four, and three balls later, was slow on the dive to see another ball reach the boundary, giving Kohli his century.
Royal Challengers’ fielding wasn’t nearly up to the mark either, but Knight Riders had just about outdone them in that department.
Knight Riders’ insipid response
Chasing 214 needed a swift response, but the momentum was all with Royal Challengers by that point. They had managed just three wickets in the Powerplay overs all tournament, but with Dale Steyn playing his first IPL game in three years, they had Chris Lynn in the first over – but for a dropped catch it would have been first ball. By the end of the fourth over, Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine would also have departed. What followed in the next seven overs was perhaps even more damaging, as Rana and Uthappa stumbled along, accumulating just 46 off 41 balls in a partnership that would have had Russell fuming in the dugout. That they ended up taking it so close spoke of the need to get him in earlier.
For all the magnificence of Russell, the fact that Knight Riders ended up losing this game by just 10 runs was as illustrative of his explosiveness as any game he has won for his side. With 113 required off the final six, Russell gave the visitors such a fright it almost sapped all the joy of the eventual victory out of Kohli’s team. There were nine towering sixes in 25 balls as it came down to Moeen and the final over before victory could at last be guaranteed for Royal Challengers. Rana had made amends at the other end and finished with an entirely creditable 85 off 46, but the game had come much too close for comfort as far as Royal Challengers were concerned.