KKR cruise to victory after record batting effort
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." - It's a commonly used proverb in the English language, and more often than not, it ends up being used in less than ordinary situations.
But there was no better way to sum up the action that unfolded on Saturday evening, when Kolkata Knight Riders, with their back against the wall, pulled off an incredible 31-run win against Kings XI Punjab at Indore's Holkar Stadium.
After posting a gargantuan 245 for 6 - the biggest total registered this year - KKR restricted the strong KXIP batting unit to 214 for 8, picking up two crucial points and going back up to No. 4 in the eight-team points table with a NRR of -0.19.
R Ashwin, on winning the toss, opted to field, giving the KKR batsmen the first taste of the strip at the Holkar Stadium. It turned out to be a belter, with the ball coming on to the bat extremely well. Chris Lynn and Narine, the openers, took full advantage of the invitation, hammering the ball all around the part in the powerplay overs to bring up 50 in the sixth over itself.
Lynn was unfortunate in getting bowled while trying to pull a ball that stayed low, hit his midriff, and popped on to the stumps. His 27 off 17 balls, however, gave KKR the solid platform they were after.
Narine, on the other hand, kept attacking the KXIP bowlers, taking the leather off the ball with his blitzkrieg. Robin Uthappa and Narine strung together another solid partnership to take the visiting side well past the 100-run mark by the 12th over, when Andrew Tye accounted for both the batsmen off consecutive deliveries.
Narine struck 75 off just 36 balls, with nine boundaries and four sixes to his name, while Uthappa racked up 24 off 17 balls.
The back-to-back fall of wickets could have slowed KKR down, but Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell ensured they didn't let the advantage slip out of hand.
Russell muscled three sixes and two fours during his knock of 31 off 14 balls while Karthik went on to score a half-century for himself.
Karthik's contribution of 50 off just 23 balls, including five boundaries and three sixes, made sure KKR cruised to their highest total in history. Handy contributions from Nitish Rana (11 off 4), Shubman Gill (16* off 8) and Javon Searles (6 off 1) meant KXIP had to play out of their skin to grab victory on the night.
The hosts did start off well, largely riding on KL Rahul's 66 of 29 balls. Chris Gayle hit 21 off 17, but KKR's bowlers never let him break the shackles, troubling him by keeping the ball close to his body and not allowing him to make space for the big shots he is known for.
The pressure eventually got to Gayle, and he nicked one to Karthik behind the stumps off his Jamaican counterpart Russell. Mayank Agarwal perished the very next ball, caught by Javon off the bowling of Russell.
Rahul continued to wage a solitary battle for his side, but with Karun Nair also falling soon after, he succumbed too.
Once Rahul was bowled by Narine, it was only a matter of time before KKR stifled the opposition and grabbed the much-needed win.
Aaron Finch did hit 34 off 20 balls, and Ashwin chipped in with 45 off 22 balls, but it was too little too late for KXIP, who are yet to seal a playoff berth for themselves.
KKR will now return home to take on Rajasthan Royals at Eden Gardens in their penultimate match of the league phase.