Once Punjab Kings were bundled out for 137 in 18.2 overs, it was Kolkata Knight Riders’ game to lose. Four quick wickets had put them in a spot of bother and at 51/4, Punjab sensed an opportunity. But Andre Russell exploded at Wankhede and Sam Billings gave him good company. An unbroken 90-run (47 balls) fifth wicket partnership between the two eventually made it a cakewalk for KKR. They won by six wickets with 33 balls to spare. Russell blasted his way to a 31-ball 70 not out, including two fours and eight sixes. Billings scored 24 not out off 23 balls.
A thumping win for @KKRiders 💪 💪
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 1, 2022
After chasing down a 200-plus total against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their first game, normal service resumed for Punjab. Their takeaways from this game were restricted to Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s nine-ball 31 and Rahul Chahar’s 2/13 from four overs. From Indian cricket’s point of view, Chahar’s steady improvement as a bowler has been heartening. The leg-spinner has added variety to his bowling.
Punjab’s ploy of Odean Smith coming from around the wicket and bowling length on a leg stump line to Russell was as baffling as it was ineffective. Rising deliveries from back-of-a-length into the body have traditionally proven to be the big man’s bugbear. Smith’s bowling was meat and drink to Russell.
The first three balls of the 12th over went for a four and two sixes. And when Smith switched to over the wicket, he still bowled length. That 30-run over completely took the game away from Punjab. There was no stopping Russell after that.
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) April 1, 2022
Early days, but the knights are looking very good. Russell’s x-factor aside, Shreyas Iyer’s arrival has added quality to their batting line-up, although the KKR captain yet again lost his wicket to a leg-spinner. KKR’s bowling attack has Umesh Yadav, who has been a revelation in this format.
Tim Southee has been complimenting him well, while Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy are providing the spin-punch. On Friday, their fielding was excellent as well. Southee’s catch to dismiss Kagiso Rabada off Russell was breathtaking.
Yadav’s second wind
The veteran fast bowler went unsold at the first round of auction before KKR bought him as an afterthought, at his base price of Rs 2 crore. It now looks like a bargain.
At 34 years of age, Yadav is enjoying a T20 second wind. He already has eight wickets in three games; five of those were taken inside the Powerplays. Today, he returned with 4/23 from four overs. An appreciation tweet from the KKR media team followed.
Yadav has developed a wobble-seam ball which is cutting back to the right-handers from a disconcerting length. It trapped Mayank Agarwal leg-before. The Punjab captain had shuffled across, but was beaten by the nip-backer.
One way to counter Yadav is to upset his length. Shikhar Dhawan tried that by charging down the track and hitting a six. But the senior quick is mixing brain with brawn to fantastic effect in this IPL. Also, he is moving the ball both ways at speed and altering his length. Iyer’s captaincy has been pretty impressive so far, especially the way he is handling his bowlers. He brought back Yadav in the ninth over and was rewarded with Liam Livingstone’s scalp. Then, after Narine’s spin choke – Varun, too, deserves a serious mention – and Southee’s wickets had put Punjab on the mat, Yadav returned for his final spell and sucked the life out of the opponents’ back-end recovery with two dismissals in three balls.
A length delivery that came in a fraction cleaned up Harpreet Brar. A short ball accounted for Chahar. It was smart thinking from Iyer to keep Nitish Rana at wide slip. As the ball reared off the deck, Chahar followed the fielder. If Yadav was the most successful, Narine was the trickiest. As usual, his bowling was very difficult to deal with.
To the purists, Narine’s action is still a tad jerky. But as long as his elbow-bend is within the permissible 15-degree limit, no harm done.
The lynchpin of KKR’s spin attack thrives on his consistency, the impeccable line and length that barely allow the batsmen any space to manoeuvre. Batsmen know his tricks, they struggle to decipher them.
Raj Bawa is a boy in a man’s world. The youngster’s raw talent is unmistakable, but tonight he was in for a rude awakening. Bawa’s extra-cover drive for four off Narine was classy.
But he wasn’t prepared for the response from the spin doctor. The bowler went wide of the crease, bowled flatter and gave the ball a vicious tweak. Bawa, stuck at the crease, played for the angle. The ball spun past the outside edge to hit the off stump. More experienced batsmen than Bawa have fallen prey to Narine’s tricks. The teenager will learn.
That was Narine’s only wicket in the match, his figures reading 1/23 from four overs. But what the spinner does game after game is to put on the choke in the middle-overs. Rival teams try to see him off. That way they play into his hands. It breaks the momentum, creates pressure and makes wicket-taking easier for his colleagues.
Brief Scores: Punjab Kings: 137 all out in 18.2 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 31, Kagiso Rabada 25; Umesh Yadav 4/23, Tim Southee 2/36) lost to KKR 141 for 4 in 14.3 overs (Andre Russell 70 no off 31 balls). KKR won by 6 wickets.