Nitish Rana's unbeaten 36 and Sunil Narine's 21-run cameo down the order enabled the Kolkata Knight Riders to register a three-wicket win against the Delhi Capitals at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
While the bowlers set the game up for the Knight Riders by restricting the opposition to 127/9 in their quota of 20 overs, Rana's knock in the middle overs was the turning point of the match.
With 52 required off the final seven overs, the match was firmly in the balance. On a sluggish track, Rana took the attack to Lalit Yadav and smashed 20 runs to tilt the game in favour of the Knights.
In a post-match press conference, Dinesh Karthik shared insights on his conversation with the southpaw by saying, "I think it was a case of Nitish feeling good. The fact that he felt he could take on Lalit Yadav, so he backed himself to hit those shots.”
“At that stage, what we were discussing was that we needed to take the game slightly deep. We need to have the right intent. If it is there, we will go for it; if not, we will rotate the strike. It wasn't an easily rotatable wicket, but there wasn't a plan like we needed to take on Lalit Yadav. In fact, it was actually harder to hit the spinners than the fast bowlers, “ he further added.
Despite the 20-run over, the Knights lost a flurry of wickets and were reeling at 96/5, with Narine and Rana holding the fort. The wicket-keeper heaped praises on Rana for his ability to absorb the pressure and guide the team over the line.
"He played a really sensible knock. The good thing was that he was not out till the end, which is very important for us. Just the way he was able to handle pressure, take on the bowlers that he thought he could take on, and it was very nice to see him mature."
"It is important that he keeps playing innings like this because he is capable of this. The most important thing in his life is if he wants to get into the national team and make a name for himself, he needs to keep producing these knocks, and he's definitely got the talent to do it, "he added.
The Knight Riders have been phenomenal in the second phase of the Indian Premier League by winning three out of their last four league games in UAE. Currently, fourth in the points table, Karthik reveals the reason behind the success of the team.
"I think the fact that Venkatesh Iyer has opened and he has shown great intent. I think Shubman Gill is a far more free player, and he is able to go and back himself, play his shots. So the talent was obviously there, it was about getting the combination right, and I think in many ways, the combination is set."
"We got off a good run at the start, so it feels good, and just a couple of things falling in place; Lockie Ferguson bowling well, so a lot of small things fell in place. People have had time to look back at themselves and what they need to improve, and they have come back as much better cricketers," he concluded.