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Warner special drives Kolkata to their knees

Wisden India logo Wisden India 01-05-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan
Warner special drives Kolkata to their knees © Associated Press Warner special drives Kolkata to their knees

David Warner has constantly featured among the top run-getters in the 2017 Indian Premier League even without producing a 'punchy' performance. On Sunday (April 30), he corrected that with a ferocious, audacious 126 off 59 that buried Kolkata Knight Riders under a mountain of runs at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.

Warner's relentless assault after being asked to bat took Hyderabad to 209 for 3 in their 20 overs. In reply, Kolkata could muster only 161 for 7 despite Robin Uthappa's 27-ball 53 to go down by 48 runs. Kolkata still remained on top, with 14 points from 10 games, while Hyderabad cemented their hold over the third spot by reaching 13 points, also from 10 matches.

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Warner's intent was clear when he danced down the track to the very first ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile. The rest was just a question of execution, and execute he did in style.

The six-hitting spree - Warner smashed eight sixes and ten fours - started in the second over when he blasted Umesh Yadav straight down the ground but he nearly fell in the same over when he miscued one behind mid-on, only for Chris Woakes to misjudge and hand a costly reprieve.

Warner was on 13 then and Woakes had a chance to make amends when he was given the ball next over, but ended up conceding even more momentum to Warner in a 17-run over. A startled Gautam Gambhir turned to spin in the form of Yusuf Pathan, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav but there was no stopping the brutal assault by Warner as the trio conceded 44 runs in the next three overs.

The most audacious of those shots was a switch-hit that sailed over the third-man boundary off Narine's first ball, which took Warner past his half-century off just 20 balls. It was the second fastest half-century in terms of balls faced this season, and the fastest ever in IPL history in terms of balls bowled in the match (25).

Warner's assault meant Hyderabad plundered 79 runs in the Power Play, but even the end of field restrictions wouldn't stop the Hyderabad skipper. He found the boundaries with ease, playing all shots in the book and elsewhere, and also rode his luck, being dropped on 86 once again by Woakes at long-on off Kuldeep in the 10th over.

Warner rubbed salt into Kolkata's – Kuldeep in particular - wound by smashing the next ball for a six and brought up his century off 43 balls in the next over, flicking Umesh for a couple.

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Amid all the Warner carnage, it was nearly forgotten that there was another batsman at the other end. Shikhar Dhawan, who too enjoyed a reprieve when Uthappa missed a simple stumping chance in the sixth over, took his own time, making 20 off 23 balls when Warner reached his century. Dhawan eventually fell for a 30-ball 29 when Kuldeep ended the 139-run opening stand with a direct hit from short fine-leg, but Warner carried on for a few more overs.

After dropping him twice, Woakes finally had Warner caught at covers in the 17th over, but not before the bulk of the damage was done. The dismissal didn't end Kolkata's woes, as Kane Williamson played a timely cameo filled with typically cheeky shots to push Hyderabad past 200.

Almost all of Kolkata's bowlers - barring Umesh and Coulter-Nile to an extent- bled runs. They were also sloppy on the field, missing three catches, one run-out and one stumping chance in all.

Kolkata lost Narine and Gambhir, the openers, with just 12 on board to attempted big shots but Uthappa and Manish Pandey kept them in the hunt. The duo rebuilt the innings and took Kolkata to 52 for 2 in seven overs when rain interrupted play for 45 minutes, before pressing on the accelerator without taking much risk.

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Through good running and the odd big hit - especially when Uthappa took on Rashid Khan - the pair added 78 for the third wicket. But just when they were looking ominous, Warner turned to the experience of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who immediately delivered by inducing Pandey to chip a return catch.

Uthappa struck a couple of more sixes off Moises Henriques to race past his half-century in 25 balls, but with 103 runs still needed off 48, he had to keep going almost every ball. It resulted in him miscuing Mohammed Siraj's slower one to long-off in the 13th over, effectively ending the challenge.

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