Kolkata Knight Riders 167 all out (Tripathi 81, Bravo 3-37) beat Chennai Super Kings 157 for 5 (Watson 50, Russell 1-18) by 10 runs
An intensely tactical battle between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Chennai Super Kings ended with the Knight Riders triumphant by ten runs, with both teams having dominated the first half of their batting innings, only for the opposition to come roaring back. Eventually, the Knight Riders’ comeback trumped that of the Super Kings.
That was down in no small measure to Rahul Tripathi’s excellent 81 off 51 at the top of the Knight Riders order. Back in his favoured opening spot, Tripathi was brisk in the powerplay, and then carried the innings on his bat when the expected fireworks from the star-studded middle order didn’t materialise. Shane Watson got a fifty of his own in the Super Kings chase, but only one other batsman crossed 25. That’s not because this was a bowlers’ pitch – though it certainly wasn’t a batting beauty – but because bowlers from both sides executed their plans with precision.
The Knight Riders were 93 for 2 after ten overs after opting to bat first, but the Super Kings kept them to 167 when they looked like getting in excess of 190. The Super Kings in turn were 99 for 1 in 12 overs and in cruise control mode, but Dinesh Karthik had held Sunil Narine back entirely for the death, and the Super Kings stumbled against a bowler who hasn’t just been among the T20 greats, but been particularly thorny for a majority of the Super Kings batsmen. Narine bowled overs 12, 14, 16 and 19 while Andre Russell was also kept exclusively for the death, bowling overs 18 and 20, as the Knight Riders choked off the batsmen’s run supply. An asking rate that was comfortable began to mount, and the combined pressure from the bowlers and the scoreboard eventually proved too much for the Super Kings middle order.
Tripathi as opener, Narine at No. 4
Narine’s failures at the top of the order had come against quick bowlers who could dig the ball in and get it to rear up uncomfortably. The Super Kings didn’t have that kind of bowler, but the Knight Riders decided to move Narine down the order anyway, pushing Tripathi up. Tripathi’s best performances in the IPL have also come as an opener, and he showed that the promotion was a sensible one. He didn’t try to knock the ball around at the start, swatting across the line more often than not and getting good returns. At the end of the powerplay, he had 31 off 18, having kept the Knight Riders’ run rate healthy despite Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana both scoring at less than a run a ball.
Tripathi was particularly severe when the bowlers pitched too short or too full, which they did often enough. Narine himself came in at No. 4, being used tactically as a floater. The move worked, with the left-hander making 17 off nine balls, which injected momentum when the match was poised, and left enough time for Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell to capitalise at the death – that, however, didn’t come.
The Super Kings fight back
Karn Sharma, in the XI ahead of Piyush Chawla, bowled his full quota in one spell after coming on when the powerplay ended, and did a significant job in reining the Knight Riders in. He picked up 2 for 25 despite going for 12 runs in his first over, and dismissed both Rana and Narine. The latter fell to a superb one-two act on the long-on boundary, Ravindra Jadeja running to his right from midwicket and getting hold of the ball while diving full length but flicking it up to Faf du Plessis before he grounded it.
Sam Curran, Dwayne Bravo and Shardul Thakur then bowled excellently, as the Knight Riders’ batting unravelled. In the first ten overs, everything had gone to plan for them, and it was all set up for a grandstand finish. Instead, the Super Kings seamers found the good-length area, which made the ball stick, denying batsmen space to rock back or pace to go over the top.
Morgan gloved a sharp bouncer from Curran behind and Russell was out in similar fashion to Thakur, though the ball wasn’t as short. Tripathi seemed to be tiring, but not so much that he didn’t punish bowlers when they erred. Deepak Chahar strayed too full down leg twice in his last over and was taken for a four and a six, while Bravo was slashed over point when he went short and wide. Tripathi fell to Bravo soon after, but he had amassed a substantial score and kept the Knight Riders fighting in an almost solo effort.
Watson, Rayudu in cruise control
The Super Kings began in much the same manner as the Knight Riders had. Du Plessis continued the form he’d shown against Kings XI Punjab, before edging a short and wide one from Shivam Mavi behind, and Watson and Ambati Rayudu were in perfect control thereafter. Runs came at a fair clip, and the first ten overs all had at least one boundary each. The second-wicket pair had added 69 runs when Rayudu holed out to long-on, but with 69 needed off 47 balls with eight wickets in hand, the chase was well within the Super Kings’ control.
The Knight Riders’ strangle
Narine struck the first blow in the final unravelling, trapping Watson in front for a 40-ball 50 an over after Rayudu had gone. The batsman reviewed but the bowler won out on umpire’s call with ball tracking suggesting the ball would clip leg stump. Crucially, the Super Kings now had two new men with 67 needed off 41 balls, with 17 of them to come from Narine.
Karthik had also held back two of Varun Chakravarthy’s overs, and on a slowing pitch, two mystery spinners to batsmen fresh at the crease began looking like a masterstroke. Narine’s first two overs went for just eight runs and netted the wicket of Watson, while Chakravarthy proved an able foil. Although Curran biffed a four and a six in Narine’s third over, the Super Kings’ final assault never materialised. Chakravarthy foxed Dhoni, and Russell’s pinpoint back-of-a-length delivery hustled Curran into a weak slash. Russell’s lengths proved impossible to get away at the death, and it was only off the last three balls of the match that he went for boundaries, Jadeja hitting 6, 4, 4 when any runs added were only academic.