Kolkata Knight Riders 158 for 4 (Narine 54, Lynn 50) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 158 for 6 (Head 75*, Mandeep 52, Umesh 2-36) by six wickets
Facing up against Kolkata Knight Riders can be a frightening prospect and Sunil Narine has contributed to that image immensely. But, even as his bowling was being worked out, he has found a new way to send shivers down the opposition's spine. He has, get this, fashioned himself into an opening batsman and has had such freakish success that he now holds the record for the fastest fifty (15 balls) in IPL history.
On the back of that breathtaking innings, and Chris Lynn's 50 off 22 on return from injury, Knight Riders recorded the highest score in the Powerplay - 105 runs in 36 balls. The target of 159 never even stood a chance.
Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers recorded their lowest aggregate in a match two weeks ago. They matched it on Sunday. Knight Riders were the bowling team both times. At Eden Gardens, they exploited a pitch that offered pace, bounce and movement. In Bengaluru, they adapted to a slow and dry pitch.
Gayle fell for a golden duck in his 100th IPL match, undone by a back-of-a-length delivery from Umesh Yadav that stopped on him. Kohli slogged across the line to a legcutter and was lbw a ball after he was dropped. De Villiers was bowled sweeping a knuckle ball from Narine. His average against spin this season has been 13.75.
The huffing and puffing
Considering the men with the most firepower were cooling off in the dressing room, Mandeep Singh and Travis Head were left to do three jobs at the same time. Remedy the slide at the top, lay a foundation through the middle and lead the charge at the end. One man hadn't scored a fifty since May 2015. The other had never scored one in the IPL. But they showed nuances far beyond those numbers in putting on 71 runs in 63 balls. Forty-nine of those runs came the hard way - by sprinting between the wickets, by doing what their more established colleagues needed to do, and failed.
Having defied the team that had claimed the most wickets between the seventh and 14th overs, this year, Head turned his attention to doing what he is best known for: six-hitting. He has T20 centuries in the BBL. He is a crowd favourite at the Adelaide Oval. And his 75 off 47 balls enabled Royal Challengers to snag 43 runs in the last three overs.
Full tosses. Length balls. Wide balls. Knight Riders batsmen were supplied with a veritable buffet and Narine dined out in style. He began with a hat-trick of sixes - picking the googly from Samuel Badree twice and belting them both over long-off. The next one that went out of the park brought up his fifty as he equalled Yusuf Pathan's record. There were 19 boundaries in the Powerplay. That's a four or six every 1.89 deliveries. Royal Challengers, in their entire innings, managed only 17.
There were perhaps some mitigating factors the bowlers could hide behind. Twenty minutes of rain could conceivably have helped the pitch become better for strokeplay. But it certainly wasn't to blame for two of the biggest power-hitters in the tournament being fed ball after ball after ball to leverage over the top with only two men allowed outside the circle.
Lynn loves bowling of this variety. His captain at Brisbane Heat, Brendon McCullum, had warned bowlers not to let him unleash his "baseball-like swing". But nobody seemed to be listening, which meant a batsman coming back from a shoulder injury got to smash five fours and four sixes. Lynn's return added significant power to the KKR line-up, and they strengthened their chances of finishing in the top two by moving into second place with two games to go.