There's rarely ever a game that goes by for the Kolkata Knight Riders where Andre Russell is not involved.
More often that not, he bludgeons 90-metre sixes at will. His strike rate of 182.32 is the third highest this season among batters to have faced at least 50 balls. When he's not batting, he's making crucial breakthroughs with the ball. He is currently KKR's leading wicket-taker (17) this season and is the only player to score 250+ runs and pick 10+ wickets four times in IPL. Add his athleticism in the field, it's hard to keep him away from action.
"He (Russell) has been tremendous throughout the whole tournament and has been good for such a long period of time not only with the bat but with the ball as well," said Tim Southee, who picked 2/23, at the post-match press conference after a 54-run win against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
On Saturday (May 14), Russell struck an unbeaten 28-ball 49 to turnaround the Knight Riders' innings, when they were precariously placed at 94 for 5 in the 12th over, to post an imposing 177 for 6. He hit three sixes off the last over against Washington Sundar itself. Fittingly, he closed out the defense snaring 3-22 dismissing Kane Williamson, Sundar and Marco Jansen.
"There are a few guys around the world that can do special things and Andre Russell’s one of those guys. He thrives on those moments and more times than not, he turns in a performance that the team needs," Southee added.
If it was Russell's 49* that added the finishing flourish, it was Sam Billings who dug in, having come in at 72-3 at the end of the eighth over and hit a patient 29-ball 34, a knock that included three fours and a six. The duo put on a 63-run stand for the sixth wicket with Billings playing the anchor allowing Russell to tee off at the other end.
"Their partnership was crucial. We were off to a pretty good start but then we lost a few wickets but that partnership we needed to have. Two experienced guys coming together who grabbed the game for us and got us to a very competitive total, probably one that was over-par. We played here a couple of days ago so we knew the wicket was going to be the same and be tougher in the second innings."
With the ball, Southee and Umesh Yadav bowled at under six-an-over and shared three wickets between them consistently bowling back-of-a-length. Russell bagged three scalps and was ably supported by spinners Sunil Narine (1-34) and Varun Chakaravarthy (1-25).
"We thought we had a pretty good score on the board," Southee added. "We played here a couple of months ago and felt the wicket was similar. We were on the receiving end of a similar result when we got bowled out in the second innings. We knew that if we could apply pressure, the run rate climbed and then we could continue taking wickets that way. It was another good bowling performance by us. We have bowled pretty well throughout the tournament as well."
The win kept the Knight Riders' play-off chances alive with one more game to play against the Lucknow Super Giants on Wednesday at the DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai. Kolkata are currently placed sixth on the points table with 12 points from 13 games.
"Every game is a must-win game for us. We have got one game left. I think it helps that in the last two games we have had, we had very convincing wins and that just shows the nature of the tournament that tends to happen majority of the years. We get to that stage of the tournament with a number of sides still able to make that final play-off spot. It's what makes this tournament great. It's not over till it's over."