Sunil Narine’s 17-ball half-century and Nitish Rana’s all-round display helped Kolkata Knight Riders win their season opener against Royal Challengers Bangalore by four wickets. Asked to bat under cloudy skies, Royal Challengers posted 176, a middling total on a good batting pitch, and just as he did last season against the same opponents, Narine blasted away a significant chunk of the target in very little time. The middle-order built on his efforts to steer Knight Riders home with seven balls to spare.
RCB could have made much more than their eventual total of 176 for 7, especially after being positioned at 127 for 2 after 14.1 overs, but a one-over special from part-time offspinner Rana, who took out AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli with consecutive balls, swung the momentum Knight Riders’ way.
After Narine fell for 50 in the sixth over, the hosts wobbled slightly as Umesh Yadav – a former Knight Rider himself – took two wickets in two back-to-back overs, but Dinesh Karthik (35*), Rana (34) and Andre Russell (15) took them to victory without too many undue alarms.
The visitors made their intentions clear off the game’s first ball when Brendon McCullum clipped Vinay Kumar off his pads for four. In all, RCB extracted 52 off the Powerplay for the loss of Quinton de Kock, and McCullum looked for the boundary at every opportunity before his dismissal for 43 in the ninth over.
De Villiers replaced McCullum and carried on in a similar vein, launching Kuldeep Yadav inside-out and down the ground for successive sixes, and following up with one more six each off Narine and Mitchell Johnson in the next two overs. His brilliance made up for an unusually off-colour Kohli at the other end, and the two put on 64 off 36 balls despite the RCB captain going at less than a run a ball.
With their two best batsmen in the middle, RCB seemed set for a massive total when they were undone by the unlikeliest of destroyers.
Before this game, Rana had only four T20 wickets to his name. Thus, it was rather surprising when Dinesh Karthik turned to him to bowl the 15th over. Rana’s first-ball, a half-tracker, was disdainfully pulled over the midwicket boundary in what seemed a continuation of de Villiers’ dominance. But two balls later, the momentum had completely shifted.Rana’s second ball was another long-hop. De Villiers went for another leg-side heave but this time he holed out to Mitchell Johnson at long-on.
Kohli took strike next ball, on virtue of the batsmen crossing, went for a drive, and ended up yorking himself against a quick and extremely full offbreak. The ball crashed into middle stump and, the visitors suddenly had two new batsmen at the crease with neither having faced a ball.
The last 30 balls of RCB’s innings produced 44 runs – decent, but not great – and they could have ended up with even less if not for an 18-ball 37 from Mandeep Singh, who hit 6, 4, 6 off the first three balls of the 20th over – bowled by Vinay Kumar – before being dismissed.
Ghost of RCB’s past returns
It wasn’t unfamiliar territory for RCB when Narine walked out with Chris Lynn for the chase. The duo had hammered their way to victory the last time the sides had met. Narine, in fact, had struck what was then the tournament’s joint-fastest fifty (off 15 balls) on that occasion.
So you’d think RCB would have had new plans for the Trinidadian, but he seemed to take them by surprise once again. Narine swept Yuzvendra Chahal for four and six off the first two balls of the innings, and then proceeded to cream 20 off Chris Woakes in the fourth over.
Offspinner Washington Sundar was summoned to deliver the fifth over but even the Powerplay specialist wasn’t spared. Sundar kept pitching the ball up, and Narine kept clattering it down the ground. By the time the fifth over was done, Narine had already raced to his fifth T20 half-century off just 17 balls.