IPL 2019: Hardik Pandya 91 off 34 in vain as Andre Russell ends KKR’s 6-match losing streak

Andre Russell smashed an unbeaten 80 off 40 balls, Shubman Gill hit 76 and Chris Lynn slammed 54 as Kolkata Knight Riders posted the season’s highest score (232 for 2) and then defeated Mumbai Indians by 34 runs at the Eden Gardens on Sunday to stay in the hunt for a playoffs berth in the 2019 Indian Premier League.

Mumbai Indians needed 233 – the highest successful run chase in IPL history to book a playoffs berth. After Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard flopped, Hardik Pandya kept MI in the game.

Hardik smashed a 17-ball 50 and went on to clobber 91 off 34 balls but his dismissal in the 18th over meant it was endgame for Mumbai Indians.

Andre Russell has been in fiery form in the 2019 IPL but he was far from happy with his batting position. He felt he was walking in far too low down the order and publically expressed his desire to bat at No.4 before questioning KKR’s decision-making after 6 defeats in a row.

On Sunday, the Knight Riders had everything to play for at home. The team management had also been criticised for their poor use of Shubman Gill. A top-order batsman, many felt Gill was being wasted at No.7. Up against Mumbai Indians, Gill opened with Chris Lynn after Rohit Sharma won the toss and asked the hosts to bat.

Lynn and Gill set the tone for KKR. Eden Gardens had come alive after getting used to seeing their team whipped. The Kolkata openers were unstoppable. Both men were fearless in their approach. Chris Lynn has done this several times in the past for Kolkata Knight Riders and he had an up and coming partner at the other end matching him shot for shot.

Chris Lynn fell to Rahul Chahar for a 29-ball 54 after Evin Lewis completed a good catch. Andre Russell was finally sent up the order and he showed exactly why he was itching to come up the order. He has maintained a strike rate of over 200 in the tournament and has hit the most sixes this season.

No surprises then that Andre Russell grabbed his chances with both hands.

Chris Lynn and Shubman Gill had added 96 for the opening wicket off 9.3 overs. Gill and Andre Russell would go on to add 62 in less than 6 overs. It was batting of the highest order but completely contrasting styles.

While Shubman Gill played an array of elegant shots, pierced the gaps and mesmerised the opposition with proper textbook cricketing shots, Russell brutalised the ball and put fear deep into the hearts of the Mumbai Indians bowling attack.

Gill hit 6 fours and 4 sixes in a 45-ball 76 and fell within touching distance of a historic hundred – he really was looking good to become the youngest centurion in IPL history. But Gill was taken at deep midwicket off Krunal Pandya and that set the stage for Andre Russell’s fireworks.

Dinesh Karthik had hit an unbeaten 97, KKR’s highest individual score since Brendon McCullum’s 158 not out on the opening night of the IPL 11 years ago, was a mere spectator as DreRuss took over. KKR scored 74 runs in 4.4 overs after Shubman Gill’s exit – Karthik faced just 7 balls and remained unbeaten on 15 as Andre Russell took the MI bowlers to the cleaners.

Andre Russell was determined to finish on a high and he was not going to back down even if it was Lasith Malinga, one of the best limited-overs bowlers in history. Russell smashed a six off the first ball and creamed a boundary through deep extra cover off the next over before under-edging the third ball to the fence.

Russell did not run an easy single off the fourth ball and faced a dot ball before smashing another six as KKR posted the season’s best. He was pumped after destroying the Mumbai Indians attack – Andre Russell had proven a point.

Mumbai Indians had no choice but to come out all guns blazing. Rohit Sharma collected 2 boundaries off Sandeep Warrier in the first over but the wily Sunil Narine snared his opening partner Quinton de Kock in the second over.

The onus was on Rohit Sharma but he was trapped lbw by Harry Gurney, the MI fight was all but over. It was that kind of an over – they needed a special from Rohit Sharma to even try and challenge KKR on Sunday.

As if Andre Russell wasn’t happy enough with his fireworks with the bat, he had Evin Lewis caught by Dinesh Karthik with his first ball and Mumbai Indians could never recover from those losses.

Suryakyumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard knew the task was almost impossible and they showed no intent. In his second over, Russell struck again and removed Suryakumar Yadav.

Hardik Pandya fought hard for Mumbai Indians and even gave them a glimmer of hope with a flurry of sixes. He raced away to the fastest 50 off 17 balls to hit the fastest half-century of the 2019 Indian Premier League. But given the kind of target MI were chasing, Hadik needed more support from the other end.

Even as Hardik Pandya went great guns, Kieron Pollard fell to Sunil Narine in his third over for 20 off 21. Krunal Pandya walked in to join his brother in the middle with the climbing rate climbing up sharply.

Hardik Pandya’s blistering knock kept MI alive in a steep chase. Only twice had teams chased down higher scores in T20 cricket: 245 for 5 by Australia vs New Zealand (February 2018) and 236 for 6 by West Indies vs South Africa (January 205). But Hardik believes he is capable of doing anything on a cricket field and his never-say-die spirit meant the KKR camp was now getting a little nervous.

There was some outrageous strokeplay. Some of the shots would have made Andre Russell and Chris Gayle proud. KKR had lost 6 matches in a row before Sunday and had failed to defend 175 against Rajasthan Royals only 3 nights ago.

Mumbai Indians needed 59 runs off the last 3 overs and Hardik Pandya was batting on 81 not out off 30 balls and KKR had every reason to feel nervous in front of their home crowd. And when Hardik hit Harry Gurney for a 6 and 4 to move into the 90s, one could hear a pin drop at the Eden Gardens. But in the same over, Hardik Pandya skied a Gurney delivery and it was that man again – Andre Russell who completed the catch to send the Kolkata crowd into a frenzy.

Hardik Pandya fell for 91 off 34. He came within touching distance of the 2nd fastest IPL hundred but more importantly, he almost pulled off the highest successful run chase in IPL history. Hardik Pandya came close but at the end of the night, Kolkata Knight Riders triumphed thanks to Andre Russel’s 3-dimensional skills.


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