What a sensational match at Eden Gardens after a muted game at the Chennai opener.!!! KKR gradually lagging behind the run rate in a big 182 run chase even after a valiant innings from Nitish Rana (68 off 47 balls) in a new opening role and support cast from Utthappa (35) as a majority of lights on a floodlight tower went off and it took several minutes to restart the game with KKR struggling at 118/3 in 16th over and Rana soon getting dismissed off the 1st ball on resumption (118/4) even as Russell was struggling to play Rashid Khan and was looking to see him off (as later confirmed by Nitish Rana in his post match Press meet)
Soon the SRH pacers came back at the death overs as per plan to close out the game as the KKR fans seemed to be resigned to their fate but suddenly, a rusty looking Andre Russell rose from his slumber and started clobbering Sid Kaul and then Bhuvaneswar Kumar in 18th and 19th overs with an array of powerpacked 4s and monster sixes. The normally unflappable Bhuvaneswar, who also was leading the team in this game, totally lost the plot as Russell smashed him into the stands. With fast bowlers bowling at death it worked out perfectly for Russell as he clobbered 4 fours and 4 sixes in his 49 notout off just 19 balls !! And in the final over bowled by left arm spinner Shakib (a move which was debatable as was also indicated by Nitish Rana at post match press meet) , young Shubman Gill (18 off 10) batting at number 6 smashed two stepped out graceful sixes to close out the game in 20th over when 13 runs were required. KKR virtually hijacked a lost cricket match from Sunrisers, whose bowlers will take some time to recover from that 3 over onslaught by Russell and Gill in which leaked 53 runs. SRH also probably got it wrong by bowling Shakib instead of Bhuvi in last over as Rana indicated in his press meet. KKR finally winning by 6 wickets in a sensational game of cricket. Russell had to get the man of the match for his blinder.
The SRH bowling attack collectively did well till Russell destroyed the fast bowlers at the end.
Earlier ,winning the toss and fielding KKR was confronted by a hungry and rejuvenated David Warner back in IPL after one year suspension from international cricket due to the famous ball tampering saga . Warner was in supreme touch ,enthralling the huge crowd by playing his scorching strokes ,drives ,cuts,pulls and reverse sweeps all around the packed eden gardens in brilliant afternoon sunshine and looked in no trouble at all. It was as if he was never away from cricket. His 85 off 53 balls with 9 fours and 3 sixes will not only excite the sunrisers management but also his Australian teammates many miles away in Dubai playing Pakistan.
Johny Bairstow (39) making his IPL debut played a fine supporting role to Warner in a century stand . After his dismissal Vijay Shankar played impressively for his 40 not out off 24 balls with some impressive big hits to finally take SRH to an imposing 181/4 and set a daunting target for KKR to chase against a quality SRH bowling attack.
For KKR ,the fast bowlers Prasidh Krishna and Lockie Fergusion bowled well in their later overs to restrict SRH to below 200. However the KKR spinners collectively had an off day.
The pitch at Eden Gardens although is a highly sporting one ,tends to help the fast bowlers more than spinners and so this may get a bit counterproductive for KKR spin attack which is currently their main strength. Therefore KKR this season may also have to rely on certain percentage of away match wins for their progress this season.
In post match press meet Nitish Rana indicated that his plan to open was an unplanned decision which came about as Narine injured his hand. He stated that his plan was to stay long enough so that Karthik or Russell gets the chance to finish the game and the plan went off well. Rana also praised Warner’s fine knock after a long layoff.
Final scores SRH 181/3 , KKR 183/4