The last couple of days sure has been good to the seniors in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
On Sunday it was MS Dhoni turning back the clock, finishing off another game in style for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as he smashed an unbeaten 18 off six against Delhi Capitals to guide his side to their ninth IPL final.
The very next day, fans got to witness veteran bowling all-rounder Sunil Narine in full flow as his vital contributions both with bat and ball ensured Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) stay in the hunt for their third title while bringing Virat Kohli’s reign as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) captain to an end.
Opting to bat on a Sharjah track that has gradually slowed down as the UAE leg of IPL 2021 chugged along, RCB got themselves off to a cracking start with 49 runs coming in the first five overs. Devdutt Padikkal and skipper Virat Kohli gave their side just the start they needed to finish on a challenging total in the range of 170-180.
Kolkata captain Morgan needed a game-changing spell from one of his bowlers and though the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Varun Chakravarthy had been building up the pressure by drying up the boundaries, Kohli and AB de Villiers’ presence at the crease was very much a lingering threat for the two-time champions.
Morgan finally brought Narine into the attack in the 10th over, and things were never the same thereafter.
The KKR skipper decided to use up all of Narine’s overs in one burst, and the Trinidadian made each one of them count, starting with the dismissal of KS Bharat, RCB’s hero in their final round robin game as he ended up holing out to long leg.
That the KKR bowlers had slowed the run rate down from the conclusion of the powerplay was starting to play in the mind of Kohli, who had collected 24 off 16 in the first six but found himself struggling to dictate terms in the middle overs by getting restricted to the singles.
Kohli managed to flick Lockie Ferguson for a boundary at the end of the 12th over to release some of the tension, but perished the very next ball he was on strike as he failed to account for the drop in Narine’s pace while looking for a slog, getting his stumps rattled to depart for 39 off 33 in what would turn out to be his final innings as RCB captain.
The story of de Villiers’ and Maxwell’s dismissals wasn’t very different from that of Kohli — the South African and Australian superstars unable to find their rhythm and ultimately letting pressure get the better of them. ABD, one of the greatest all-formats batters this game has seen with the widest range of strokes in his armoury, got beaten by a regulation delivery that darted through the gap between his blade and the front pad to depart for 11. That was another batting legend clean-bowled by Narine in as many overs.
By the time Maxwell, who has perhaps been in his best form with the bat since 2014, got a thick top-edge off an attempted slog sweep that resulted in a simple catch for Ferguson at short third man, the tide had very much turned in Kolkata’s favour. The spell of 4-0-21-4 from the man who has won the Knight Riders many a game since joining the franchise in 2012, helped them restrict the Royal Challengers to a modest 138/7, 20-30 runs short of what they would have imagined at the end of the powerplay.
Narine’s contribution though was far from done. Kolkata’s powerplay wasn’t very different from that of Bangalore’s as Morgan’s men collected 48 runs for the loss of Shubman Gill’s wicket at the end of the sixth over. Kohli brought spin from both ends thereafter and managed to slow the run rate down by drying up the boundaries. Unlike RCB though, KKR were able to break the rut in the 10th over with a six and a four off Nitish Rana’s bat, though the dismissal of Venkatesh Iyer, who has been their find of this season, in the very next over hampered their recovery.
Narine strode out to bat at a time when KKR were not quite in the danger zone yet, but were slowly starting to feel the heat after the fall of a couple of wickets. Much like Dhoni in his match-winning cameo on Sunday, the Trinidadian got off to the mark with a six, smashing Dan Christian over the midwicket fence.
He then followed it up with two more maximums in the same over — another pull towards the midwicket region followed by a one-handed slog down the ground — as the Aussie all-rounder bled 22 runs in the 12th over of the chase. With just 38 needed off 48 at this point, one could say the game was almost sealed in Morgan and Co’s favour.
Rana ended up playing a rash slog off Yuzvendra Chahal to get caught at long on, which was then followed by Mohammed Siraj dismissing Narine (26) and Dinesh Karthik (10) in the 18th over to create a bit of drama. But Narine’s super striking in the 12th over ensured Kolkata’s required rate fell below six an over with a plenty of batters to come, and despite losing three wickets in quick succession, KKR still had captain Morgan and the star Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib to finish things off in style for them in the final over of the innings.
“Narine makes it look very easy. He bowled outstandingly well,” said Morgan, neatly summarising Narine’s Player of the Match winning performance that set up a Qualifier 2 meeting against Delhi Capitals for the Knight Riders.
In the process, the Trinidadian let the bat and ball do the talking in sending a message to the selectors back home. The off-spinner was dropped from the squad that will be defending West Indies’ T20 World Cup title later this month in the UAE and Oman. Narine was part of the 2012 and 2016 World T20-winning sides, was dropped in favour of Roston Chase, with chief selector Roger Harper citing fitness issues as the reason behind his exclusion.
Narine only reminded them of the kind of all-round contributions on the same surfaces that could have come in handy for the Kieron Pollard-led side, that they will end up missing out on unless they are willing to make a last-minute announcement.
As for Morgan, he will be hoping the fire in Narine’s belly to prove his detractors wrong will continue to burn bright in the second qualifier. Kolkata, after all, have been outright brilliant in the second leg of this edition after facing the prospect of becoming one of the first teams to get eliminated at one point, and could use another performance or two. With momentum firmly on their side with three consecutive wins, the Purple Brigade will be fancying their chances come Wednesday when they face their next big assignment: the Delhi Capitals.
/ 3 years ago
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