Eventually, it turned out to be a smooth ride to the finish-line for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Needing a victory to stay alive in the race for the last available playoff-berth, KKR chased down the target of 184 set by Kings XI Punjab with seven wickets and two overs to spare.
The defeat dashed Kings’ slender hopes of advancing in the competition. On Sunday, the concluding day of the league phase, Kings plays Chennai Super Kings here while KKR faces host Mumbai Indians.
The visiting team’s befitting response, kick-started by Chris Lynn’s 22-ball 46 in the powerplay, stayed on course with fellow-opener Shubman Gill contributing an unbeaten 65 off 49 balls. Interestingly, every KKR batsman on view hit, at least, one four and a six!
KKR never lost control with Robin Uthappa and Gill bringing up the team’s 100 in 10.2 overs. But off the next delivery, Uthappa holed out to Mayank Agarwal at long-off. That brought in Andre Russell. And what followed was a familiar script involving two big-hitters.
Gill went after R. Ashwin, hitting him for a two sixes and a four to reach his half-century. Later, his unbeaten 49-ball 65 fetched him the Man of the Match award.
Russell, whose dropped catch at 14 by Agarwal off Tye, resulted in the second six of the over, did require some medical attention for his sprained wrist. But he resumed his innings and brought up the 50-run stand off just 28 balls.
With the equation down to 34 runs off 32 deliveries, Russell’s search for a third six ended in a well-judged catch by Tye. At 150 after 14.5 overs, KKR stayed firmly in the hunt. Joining Gill, Dinesh Karthik blitzed a nine-ball 21 to put the finishing touches.
Earlier, even after losing K. L. Rahul and Chris Gayle, within 25 deliveries, and playing out 17 dot-balls to score 41 in powerplay, if Kings crossed 180, imports Nicholas Pooran and Sam Curran had much to do with it.
In fact, Curran’s unbeaten 24-ball 55, including the 22 he scored off the final over bowled by Harry Gurney, gave the host a tally they could hope to defend. Dropped when on 17 by Rinku Singh, Curran went on to mark his return with a calculated assault.
The exits of Rahul and Gayle, off Sunil Warrier, brought together Mayank Agarwal and Pooran and their 40-ball 69 was instrumental in injecting the self-belief in the middle-order.
Pooran, determined to make his presence felt, started the resurrection with a strokeful 47 including four sixes and three fours. Agarwal was happy to play the second fiddle in their retrieving stand.
However, both fell in unexpected ways. Nitish Rana, the sixth bowling option, lured Pooran to his doom and Agarwal was run-out at the non-striker’s end. Before television replay confirmed Agarwal’s dismissal, the KKR players looked almost disinterested in the verdict.
Thereafter, Curran held centrestage, as he punished Sunil Narine, Russell and Gurney by turns at the ‘death’ as the last four overs produced 51 runs.
But once the Lynn-inspired chase began, KKR proved unstoppable.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
Chris Gayle c Gill b Warrier 14 (14b, 2×4), K.L. Rahul c Lynn b Warrier 2 (7b), Mayank Agarwal run out 36 (26b, 2×4, 1×6), Nicholas Pooran c Warrier b Rana 47 (27b, 3×4, 4×6), Mandeep Singh c Uthappa b Gurney 25 (17b, 1×4, 1×6), Sam Curran (not out) 55 (24b, 7×4, 2×6), R. Ashwin b Russell 0 (3b), Andrew Tye (not out) 0 (2b); Extras (lb-2, w-1): 3; Total (for six wkts. in 20 overs): 183.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-13 (Rahul, 2.3 overs), 2-22 (Gayle, 4.1), 3-91 (Pooran, 10.5), 4-111 (Mayank, 13.3), 5-149 (Mandeep, 17.3), 6-151 (R. Ashwin, 18.1).
KNIGHT RIDERS BOWLING
Warrier 4-0-31-2, Gurney 4-0-41-1, Narine 4-0-29-0, Russell 3-0-29-1, Chawla 4-0-43-0, Rana 1-0-8-1.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Shubman Gill (not out) 65 (49b, 5×4, 2×6), Chris Lynn c & b Tye 46 (22b, 5×4, 3×6), Robin Uthappa c Mayank b R. Ashwin 22 (14b, 2×4, 1×6), Andre Russell c Tye b Shami 24 (14b, 2×4, 2×6), Dinesh Karthik (not out) 21 (9b, 2×4, 1×6); Extras (lb-2, w-5): 7; Total (for three wkts. in 18 overs): 185.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-62 (Lynn, 5.6), 2-100 (Uthappa, 10.3), 3-150 (Russell, 14.5).
KINGS XI BOWLING
Shami 3-0-15-1, Arshdeep 2-0-24-0, R. Ashwin 4-0-38-1, Tye 3-0-41-1, M. Ashwin 2-0-24-0, Curran 4-0-41-0.
Toss: Kolkata Knight Riders.
MoM: Shubman Gill.
Knight Riders won by seven wickets with 12 balls to spare.