George Bailey’s Kings XI Punjab set a monumental target of 184 runs against the Kolkata Knight Riders, after winning the toss and electing to bat first on a sluggish Eden wicket. However, even that was not going to be enough, as the home team piled on to the Kings XI’s miseries, by inflicting yet another defeat upon them. The win took KKR to the top of the table, leapfrogging the consistent Chennai SuperKings and the formidable Rajasthan Royals.
The Kings XI Punjab fans must have finally heaved a sigh of relief, as last season’s hero Glenn Maxwell came to the party with some big hitting. Maxwell made his intentions clear at the very onset, when he pulled Russel for a six over mid-wicket almost as soon as he came to the crease. The duo of Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra had set a solid foundation and the opening partnership, which has haunted KXIP this season, finally came good. Vohra carted the KKR bowlers for 3 massive sixes and with the fall of Murali Vijay’s wicket, Saha gave him good company too.
It looked like a homecoming of sorts for Wriddhiman Saha who was batting beautifully against the KKR spin bowlers. Maxwell and Saha stitched together a 65-run partnership before Narine struck twice in an over, to remove the dangerous Maxwell, and then foxed Saha to complete his four-wicket haul. KXIP were left at 149-4 and Sunil Narine accounted for each of those four wickets, ending up with brilliant figures of 4-19. The mystery spinner finally found his lost form and delighted the home fans with a splendid bowling effort.
There were some late fireworks by David Miller who went after Andre Russel in the last over of the Punjab innings. He smashed the first delivery over long-on for a six with brutal force. He hit another one over the mid-wicket region, as Russel kept looking for the yorkers, and Miller kept thrashing the fuller deliveries with sheer power. The last two deliveries went for fours, as Miller predicted what was on Russel’s mind, hitting the shorter delivery square off the wicket, and carving the next full toss over the extra cover region. In a combined display of artistry and aggression, he garnered 21 runs off that last over.
The chase looked difficult, if not intimidating. 183 was a good total to have on the board at Eden Gardens, and the KKR batsmen were faced with an uphill task.
Robin Uthappa departed early and skipper Gautam Gambhir didn’t last too long either. The youngsters Manish Pandey (22) and Surya Kumar Yadav (9) failed to notch up a big innings yet again. Gurkeerat Mann Singh bowled well to get the better of Gambhir and Manish Pandey, and it is a wonder why he didn’t get a chance to bowl his full quota of overs. Even Glenn Maxwell, who picked up a wicket in his first over, on an Eden track that assists the spinners, wasn’t brought back into the attack again. KKR were left reeling at 83-4 and almost looked out of the contest at that stage.
But Andre Russel had different ideas. As they say, it’s never over until the fat lady sings. The all-rounder smashed a brilliant 51 off 21 to keep KKR in the hunt. Together with Yusuf Pathan, he hammered the KXIP bowling with disdain, and Anureet Singh, especially, faced the heat of their onslaught. The duo led the charge and KKR looked to be in the driver’s seat, when a flurry of wickets followed again. Axar Patel dismissed Russel and then run out Botha to give back the advantage to the Kings XI.
With 8 runs needed off the last over, George Bailey had no option but to look at Anureet Singh. The latter was hit for a six by Piyush Chawla in the third delivery of the over, and it looked like KKR’s game. Then came the anti-climax with Chawla being caught behind the very next ball, and a Super Over was still on the cards. However, Sunil Narine scampered for a leg bye to deny the Kings XI a fairy-tale victory. KKR ended a spectacular home run with their 3rd consecutive victory, and the icing on the cake was the consequent jump to the No.1 position.