Ruthless bludgeoning of the cricket ball by its three reliable musketeers — Nitish Rana, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell — powered Kolkata Knight Riders to a crushing 28-run win over Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday.
The trio’s fireworks spurred KKR to 218 for four, the highest total at the venue, and provided thorough entertainment to its 51,000 passionate supporters. In reply, KXIP managed 190 for four as KKR scored its second consecutive win at home before setting off on the road for its next encounter.
Sunil Narine returned to his favourite opening slot and unravelled the ‘mystery’ around KXIP’s costly buy — Varun Chakaravarthy. The spinner conceded 25 runs — including three sixes and a four — in his first over on debut to fetch KKR some early momentum.
After Chris Lynn — his ill-timed hoick off Mohd. Shami was well held by David Miller — and Narine fell in similar fashion, Uthappa (67 not out off 50) and Rana (63 off 34) took charge.
It was one of Uthappa’s finest IPL knocks as he blended aggression with caution. Rana, encouraged by his previous innings, stretched his legs and swung his arms to thrash the KXIP bowlers and help KKR maintain an eight-plus run rate.
Rana grabbed 50 through fours and sixes alone. No matter how he held the bat, the Delhi batsman hit all his seven sixes, including four off R. Ashwin, in the ‘V’ and left the KXIP skipper clueless.
Uthappa enjoyed his timing and placement as he cut and flicked to gather most of his runs. He gave perfect company to Rana by producing a fine mix of ones and twos interspersed with fours and sixes.
Run flow continues
Rana top-edging Varun may have ended a 110-run partnership off 66 balls between him and Uthappa but it did not choke KKR’s run flow.
Russell, who was bowled off a Shami yorker when on three in the 17th over and was reprieved as the umpired ruled it a no-ball due to violation of field restrictions, punished KXIP heavily for the innocuous mistake.
In his second successive spectacular show, the Caribbean flexed his bulging biceps to plunder 45 off the next 12 balls, including 22 off Andrew Tye in the 18th over and 25 off Shami in the 19th. His 17-ball 48, for a whopping strike rate of 282, matched the decimation against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Russell and Uthappa collected 67 off 32 deliveries to enable KKR better the previous best total of 210 for six scored by Mumbai Indians at the Eden.
Russell shone with the ball as well. He captured the crucial wickets of Chris Gayle and Sarfaraz Khan, the heroes of KXIP’s last match, and dented the tourists’ progress.