Sunil Narine came up with one of the most impressive all-round displays in the history of India Premier League’s playoffs stage as he nailed it with the ball and bat to push Kolkata Knight Riders to a victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday.
It was Narine at his best in both the departments, taking a four-fer in the first half and then backing it up with a stellar cameo that dented RCB’s hopes in a low-scoring encounter.
The mystery spinner showed why the talks of his decline in the last couple of years are premature. Narine picked up the best-ever figures in an IPL playoff encounter, ending with 4/21 to help KKR restrict RCB to a manageable 138/7 on one of the better Sharjah surfaces to bat on in the tournament.
Despite the relaid track now beginning to settle down, Narine dismissed RCB’s three best batters Virat Kohli (39), Glenn Maxwell (15) and AB de Villiers (11) and all three when they were settling in for a substantial score. Narine’s fourth was also an important breakthrough, as he got RCB’s last league match’s hero KS Bharat (9) out caught.
Then in the tricky little run-chase, just when the asking rate was starting to slip away from KKR’s hands touch, Narine blasted a cameo of 26 runs off just 15 balls. Those were only 26 runs in numbers, but it was an extremely vital hand from the West Indian in pure-game impact.
When Narine walked out to bat at the start of the 12th over in the run-chase, RCB had piled on a few tight overs post the powerplay field restriction and KKR now needed a tricky 60 off 54 balls.
After playing out a dot ball initially, batting partner Nitish Rana took a single and left the onus on Narine to do his job. Sent in with a purpose to attack the ball and tilt the scales decisively in his team’s favour, Narine took down RCB’s sixth bowler Dan Christian for three consecutive sixes.
Narine’s assault exerted so much pressure on Christian that he also gave away a couple of wides to KKR. That innings extended the difference between balls left and runs required significantly and helped other KKR batters, who were having an iffy day, to calmy rotate the strike.
Besides Shubman Gill (29) at the top, none of the other KKR batters could claim to have really timed the ball off the square consistently like Narine. Inform Venkatesh Iyer made a painstaking 26 off 30, while Rana finished with 23 off 25 balls. Usually, free-flowing Dinesh Karthik also could muster only 10 runs off the 12 balls he faced.
But Narine’s innings ensured that the Riders never let the Royal Challengers pile on the pressure too much. Narine fell near the end, but his innings kept KKR within a touching distance of victory, before captain Eoin Morgan (5*) and Shakib Al Hasan (9*) batted professionally in the last two overs to close out the contest.
Mohammed Siraj (2/19), Yuzvendra Chahal (2/16) and Harshal Patel (2/19) were the pick of the bowlers for RCB, but lack of runs on the board and lack of depth in the bowling unit meant that it was always an uphill task for Kohli’s team.
Kohli will be disappointed to have ended his RCB captaincy tenure without an IPL title and would be ruing the fact that he didn’t carry on to make a big score after getting a decent start with the bat. So would other RCB batters. But they lost out to Narine’s all-round brilliance on the day.
For KKR, Shakib (0/24), Varun Chakravarthy (0/20) and Lockie Ferguson (2/30) also did a handsome job in pulling things back in their team’s favour after the powerplay. There wasn’t much to separate the two teams at the end of the field restrictions in either half, but Narine’s outstanding spell and pivotal cameo made the ultimate difference.
Royal Challengers Bangalore 138/7 in 20 overs (Kohli 39, Padikkal 21; Narine 4/21, Ferguson 2/30) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 139/6 in 19.4 overs (Gill 29, Narine 26; Siraj 2/19, Chahal 2/16) by four wickets