Royal Challengers Bangalore 132 for 7 (Rutherford 28, Shahbaz 27, Southee 3-20, Umesh 2-16) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 128 (Russell 25, Hasaranga 4-20, Akash 3-45, Harshal 2-11) by three wickets
This has been an IPL of quick pitches with early movement, and fast bowlers have never had it better in the powerplay. It’s still early days, of course, but neither their collective average (24.00) nor their economy rate (6.75) in this phase has been bettered in any previous IPL season.
KKR vs RCB ended up heavily influenced by powerplay wickets, with the two sets of fast bowlers bagging three each in that phase. The difference between the teams, in the end, came down to what came afterwards.
Sent in, and mindful of the significant advantage that dew has given chasing teams this season, KKR’s batters kept going hard. The strategy could have come off on another day, but on this day it backfired; they were bowled out for 128 with seven balls unused
Short ball does the early damage
Intent, intent, intent
KKR’s response to those early wickets was to promote Sunil Narine as a post-powerplay pinch-hitter. And the hitting wasn’t to come only from his end. Shreyas Iyer took on Hasaranga in the first over with the fields spread out, and picked out long-on. This didn’t temper Narine’s approach – he flat-batted Akash for a four down the ground and top-edged him for a six over the keeper’s head, before being dismissed by Hasaranga while miscuing another attempted big hit.
Hasaranga then bowled Sheldon Jackson first ball with a brilliant, dipping googly, but even at six down KKR weren’t relenting. Sam Billings picked out long-on in Harshal’s first over, leaving Russell as the only recognised batter left.
Russell hit Shahbaz for a pair of sixes in the 13th over, before Harshal removed him in the 14th, frustrating him with a series of short balls, denying him anything in his hitting arc, and finding his edge with one that bounced a little more than expected.
Umesh and Southee go into Test-match mode
Umesh found Anuj Rawat’s edge with the second ball of the RCB innings, with extra bounce and a bit of seam movement in the corridor. Virat Kohli came in and stroked the first two balls he faced for sublimely timed boundaries, but Umesh had his revenge in his next over, getting one to nip away from Kohli, who fiddled and nicked behind.
In between, Southee squared up Faf du Plessis and had him caught off the leading edge.
With Willey – promoted to No. 4 – and Rutherford taking their time early on, the powerplay ended with RCB 36 for 3.
Narine tightens the screws
Chakravarthy endured a rare bad day, dragging the ball too short on occasion and offering a little too much width, but Narine was his usual parsimonious self. With neither batter taking a chance against him, he got through his first 2.5 overs while conceding just eight runs. And the pressure eventually led Willey to attempt a forcing shot only to pop a catch to midwicket.
At that point, RCB were four down and needed 67 from 54 balls.
With the wicket falling at the end of the 11th over, Shahbaz walked in at No. 6, pushing Karthik – who prefers pace on the bat in the slog overs to spinners in the middle – further down the order. KKR countered by pulling Narine out of the attack, potentially reserving his last over for Karthik’s entry.
Russell replaced Narine, and Shahbaz hit two crucial blows off him in the 13th over: a cleared-front-leg hit over midwicket, and a short ball pulled over backward square leg, both clearing the boundary.
Umesh and Southee came back to give away just eight off the next two overs, leaving RCB needing 36 off 30. Shahbaz was out stumped in the next over, off Chakravarthy, but not before hitting another six, stepping out to meet the ball on the full and launch it over the on side.
Harshal and Karthik finish it off
Shahbaz’s dismissal and Karthik’s entry brought Narine straight back into the attack, and RCB played out his final over carefully, taking just four singles from it. With 24 needed off 18, they seemed in control, but KKR made an attacking bowling change, bringing Southee on in the 18th. It may have been forced, with Russell’s troublesome shoulder not letting him bowl out his quota, but it meant that one of the last two overs – if Russell could bowl the other – would have to be sent down by the sixth bowler.
Southee turned the match once more, picking up two wickets in the 18th. Superb work in the field contributed to both dismissals: the agile Jackson, diving to his right to grab an inside-edge inches off the ground, helped send back Rutherford; and Russell, turning around and running back from mid-off, took a superbly judged-catch when Hasaranga miscued a hit over the infield.
KKR messed up a far simpler bit of fielding in the next over, however, as Umesh threw to the wrong end with both Karthik and Harshal stranded at the same end. Harshal made them pay with two fours in the second half of that 19th over, bowled by Venkatesh: a scoop over short fine leg and a flat-batted club to bisect long-on and deep midwicket.
It left seven to get off the last over, and Russell, still clutching his shoulder gingerly, volunteered to bowl it. The first one was a fairly well-directed short ball, but Karthik saw it early and pulled it far beyond the square leg boundary. A drive between the bowler and mid-on off the next ball ended the game, bringing much relief to an anxious RCB dugout.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo