Kolkata Knight Riders improved on this season’s chasing trend, coasting to an eight-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab with 21 balls to spare in their first home game. It was the eighth win by a chasing side in 11 games this season. Chasing 171, Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine, promoted to open the batting, struck 76 in the Powerplay to effectively kill the game. Gambhir made an unbeaten 72, his 33rd IPL fifty, equalling David Warner’s tally in the tournament. Knight Riders have not lost an IPL game at the Eden Gardens while chasing since 2012.
Kings XI had initially made a bright start with a 53-run opening stand between Hashim Amla and Manan Vohra, their second successive fifty-plus stand. However, Kings XI lost a middle-overs tussle between their own attacking approach and Knight Riders’ slow bowlers, losing wickets and momentum. Knight Riders curbed the scoring rate, and Umesh Yadav took three wickets in the 18th over – finishing with 4 for 33 on his return – to limit Kings XI to 170, a sub-par score on a quick outfield and a true pitch.
Do what your opposition doesn’t want
Amla and Vohra, rely on their timing more than power even in T20s. On a surface with plenty of pace and bounce, Knight Riders used seam, playing into the hands of the Kings XI openers. They struck nine boundaries between them and Kings XI raced away to 45 for 0 in the first four overs, forcing Gambhir to look at his slow-bowling options.
He turned to the spin of Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla. The difference in tact was evident when the openers were made to hit through the line, instead of using an angled bat. Both spinners struck in their first spells and stalled Kings XI’s momentum.
The art of setting a target
The challenge of batting first on small grounds is deciding how much to set the chasing team. How hard does their top order go? How many resources would they want in the end overs? In either case, utilising the last five overs efficiently is imperative.
Kings XI lost three wickets in 27 balls in the middle overs, falling from 66 for 1 to 98 for 4. While that may not appear to be a slump, it ensured that wickets in the end overs would leave Kings XI well short. Gambhir finished Narine relatively early, by the 16th over. Before 2015, he had bowled 42% of his overs in the last five overs; but since then, he has bowled 23% in that period.
In the 2016 IPL, the average score in the last five overs was 45.55. Kings XI, with the pressure of avoiding a collapse, scored just 36 runs in that phase. Mohit Sharma and Varun Aaron faced the last two overs. No batsman scored 30 or more.
Using the Powerplay
It was a surprise when Melbourne Renegades chose to open with Narine in the last Big Bash League. A left-handed Marcus Harris was their designated opener. So it wasn’t because they wanted a left hand-right hand combination. Instead of a batsman building an innings, they perhaps felt maximising run-making in the Powerplay was what the format needed. In the Pakistan Super League, Narine hit 11 sixes, the joint fifth-most in the tournament.
It was a surprise even when Knight Riders opened with Narine in their chase, but it wasn’t flawed thinking. At worst, he would get out having not consumed too many balls.
But his promotion came off. He faced 18 deliveries and his intent was to block none of them. He ended up hitting four fours and three sixes to finish with 37. He added 76 runs with Gambhir in 34 balls, helping Knight Riders make their highest Powerplay score.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo[“Source-espncricinfo