Who makes the plans, KKR?Whoever does it deserves a big pat on the back. Whether it was opening the batting with Sunil Narine or that game-breaking move to go all out with pace, it worked wonders. Gautam Gambhir was spot on in holding back his spinners, traditionally their biggest wicket-takers, and let the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile (3 for 21), Chris Woakes (3 for 6) to take the center stage. That the guys delivered perfectly was a commendable feat in itself while defending a total as low as 131, but to get the plans in order requires special mention. And boy did his men respond to the challenge.
KKR started with a field that bespoke their intent, with a short leg to Chris Gayle and two slips to Virat Kohli. The latter fell right into the trap, chasing a wide away-swinger from Coulter-Nile. He left blaming the people who were moving around the sight-screen but this was no flash in the pan. Coulter-Nile was soon to hurry up de Villiers into a pull and force a top edge to the wicket-keeper. In between Mandeep Singh cut a short one straight to point. And the chase was falling apart early.
What happened to the batting, RCB?If you were to tell someone before this match that a batting line-up consisting of AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli could be bowled out for the lowest total in IPL history, you would probably have been laughed at. But not only did that happen, RCB’s 48 came while they were chasing a total of just 131. Virat Kohli called it ‘probably the worst batting performance’ in IPL. Batsman after batsman came in and fell to the traps set, looked tentative against the pacers and not one batsman was able to break the shackles or even dig in for long. Chris Gayle was the only batsman whose ‘balls faced’ count went into double figures. He remained a threat as long as he was in the middle despite the fall of wickets at the other end. But when he too got a leading edge to mid off, the chase simply lost steam. None of the batsmen simply had enough in them to attack really quick pace. Umesh Yadav, Coulter-Nile and Chris Woakes bowled good speeds, and on a pitch that had a little assistance for them, they had the RCB batsmen befuddled.
Twists and turnsAt the halfway stage, RCB went back distinctly happier. They were chasing a total of 131 at Eden Gardens, a ground that has favoured batting second. They got there with some inspired bowling themselves. After KKR’s batting powerplay, it looked like the hosts were racing away with the game at 65 for 2. However, that turned around as RCB’s spinners, particularly Yuzvendra Chahal, spun a web around the middle and lower order. Wickets fell to full tosses, there was some clever bowling and RCB did well to not let the pressure drop. KKR’s last eight wickets fell for just 66 runs. But nobody would have envisaged what was to follow.
KKR’s successful Narine experimentThis has been another move from KKR that has been talked about and observed closely for its success. Once again today, Sunil Narine made sure that the powerplay overs counted in favour of KKR. His 17-ball 34 and onslaught against anything the bowlers were coming up with, not only left the opposition flummoxed but a little demoralised as well. And KKR had pretty much nothing to lose if the experiment didn’t work. It was negligible investment but telling returns. Against Gujarat Lions, he went after the pacers and fell when the spinner was brought on. Today RCB started with Samuel Badree, but the spinner was carted around for 18 runs in the first over. The success of such a pinch-hitting opener might just trigger more teams to try it out.
Where will this win rate?Pretty high for KKR. And pretty highly in IPL history as well. Not often do bowlers hog the limelight in a T20 game. Not often does quality pace get the rewards it deserves. And never ever has a team been bowled out by just pacers in IPL. On all those counts, and given where they were at the halfway stage, this will be a huge morale-booster for KKR.
Where they go next?Kolkata Knight Riders are second in the points table currently and will go to face off against the Rising Pune Supergiant on 26th of this month. RCB go back home to Bengaluru where they will face Sunrisers Hyderabad first, followed soon after by Gujarat Lions.
Brief Scores: KKR 131 in 19.3 overs (Sunil Narine 34; Yuzvendra Chahal 3/16) beat RCB 49 in 9.4 overs (Nathan Coulter-Nile 3/21, Chris Woakes 3/6, Colin de Grandhomme 3/4) by 82 runs