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Russell the hero in dramatic Kolkata win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 04-05-2016

There were three fifties in the 2016 Indian Premier League match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday (May 4) at Eden Gardens. The first two, from Gautam Gambhir (54 off 45) and Robin Uthappa (70 off 49), were measured, helping Kolkata put on 164 for 3. But the third from Glenn Maxwell (68 off 42) was downright audacious and put Punjab in the driver’s seat until Kolkata nabbed him just in time to pull off a seven-run win in a nail-biter of a game.

The equation was 45 needed from 27 balls and Punjab appeared on course to chase it down with Maxwell hitting the ball sweetly. But he didn’t time his reverse sweep well against Piyush Chawla, a bogeyman for Punjab, and was adjudged lbw. David Miller fell next but Axar Patel (21 off 7) kept the visitors in the hunt till the last over. With 12 needed, Gambhir went with Andre Russell. The allrounder repaid the faith, running out Axar at the non-striker’s end in the second ball, having Gurkeerat Singh run out next and taking a wicket to finish with stunning figures of 4 for 20.

Chasing 165 after winning the toss and opting to field, Punjab were off to a nightmarish start, losing three wickets in the first three overs. Marcus Stoinis (0) was the first to fall, swatting casually at a delivery from Russell but only finding Chawla at mid off. Russell had another when Manan Vohra pulled at a ball without much conviction and was gobbled up by Shakib Al Hasan at deep backward square leg. The very next ball from Morne Morkel was then pushed by M Vijay straight into the hands of mid off and all of a sudden, Punjab had slipped to 13 for 3.

It was hardly ideal, but Wriddhiman Saha and Glenn Maxwell quickly put it out of their mind and, to their credit, continued unflustered. Saha targeted Umesh Yadav, the pacer going for 11 in his first over, while Maxwell resorted to shuffling across and hitting over short fine leg.

A partnership began to flourish, but Gambhir brought on Chawla and was able to snare Saha (24), chopping on to the stumps. Brad Hogg came on next and did enough to beat David Miller and get the ball to kiss the bail but not enough to dislodge it from its groove.

Maxwell, however, was reading the spinners well, carving sixes seemingly at whim. That Kolkata was starting to feel the pressure was soon evident as misfields crept in and Maxwell rubbed salt into the wounds with a fifty off just 29 balls. It was a vintage knock from Maxwell, but he wasn’t able to see the side through in the end.

Kolkata’s openers got the side off to a solid, albeit unhurried, start earlier in the day. Uthappa and Gambhir only managed 40 runs in the Power Play, but began to up the tempo after the 10th over.

They soon found out that was easier said than done. The two-paced nature of the pitch as well as some sensible bowling by the Punjab spinners ensured that the batsmen were going at just over 7 runs an over.

Gambhir and Uthappa brought up the century stand at the end of 13 overs, but moments later the Kolkata captain was found several feet short of his crease for a 45-ball 54. The ball had only travelled to Maxwell at cover, and it didn’t take long for Sandeep Sharma to collect the throw and break the bails.

Sharma could have had Uthappa dismissed in the same over as well, batting on 50, but instead a top edge was put down due to some miscommunication between Miller and Mohit Sharma at long-off.

Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan began showing more intent, drilling boundaries with ease. It eventually took another run out to dismiss the other half of Kolkata’s opening pair as Uthappa and Yusuf both found themselves both at the same end of the wicket and this time, the visitors didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and sent back the former for 70 off 49 balls.

However, even with Yusuf (19 not out) and Russell (16), the architects of Kolkata’s win against Royal Challengers Bangalore, at the crease, the runs weren’t easy to come by. Sandeep conceded only four runs in the final over, but as good as Punjab’s bowlers were, Kolkata’s were just a bit better.

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