Kolkata Knight Riders kept their playoffs hopes alive as their bowlers held their nerves to earn a massively crucial five-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday.
Injudicious shot selection by their batters after they won the toss limited the Knights to 171/9. However, their bowlers, in spite of their waywardness for a good part of the second innings and the no-balls at wrong times, kept striking at critical phases that restricted the Sunrisers to 166/8.
In their run chase, the Sunrisers were four down for 54 in the seventh over, but captain Aiden Markram (41) and Heinrich Klaasen (36) fought back with their 70-run fifth-wicket stand that made the equation quite favourable for their side and threatened to take the game away from the Knights. Skipper Nitish Rana (42), having done a good job with the bat earlier, erred in not bringing his team’s most consistent spinner Varun Chakravarthy into the attack.
Captain Nitish Rana in Hyderabad on Thursday. PTI picture
Fortunately for the Knights, Shardul Thakur, bowling after almost three weeks, gave his team some hope when he accounted for Klaasen who perished in the deep off the odd ball that stopped a bit after pitching. Even then, Markram and Abdul Samad made sure the Sunrisers were cruising, till Vaibhav Arora struck in his back-to-back overs.
Dismissing Markram first, Arora then had Marco Jansen caught behind, thanks to a fine catch by keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz that pressed the panic button in the Sunrisers camp. The hosts’ hopes were on Samad then, but with seven needed off four balls, Chakravarthy (1/20) had the better of him by altering his length well.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz celebrates with Man of the Match Varun Chakravarthy after his dismissal of Abdul Samad in the final over of the match. PTI picture
The Sunrisers needed six off the final ball, but Chakravarthy ensured Bhuvneshwar Kumar couldn’t connect bat with ball, much to the relief of the Knights.
Earlier, almost every KKR batter played the wrong shot at the wrong time and threw their wickets away in spite of being well set. That put extra pressure on the consistent Rinku Singh as he again had to come in at a crisis situation (35/3 in the fifth over).
Rinku (46 off 35 balls) didn’t disappoint either, but captain Rana aside, hardly anyone else could provide him support from the other end. All-rounder Andre Russell (24 off 15 balls) warmed up well with a couple of maximums and a boundary, but his “consistency” in flattering-to-deceive continued.
Thanks to Impact Player Anukul Roy (replacing Jason Roy), who hit two boundaries in the 19th over, the Knights could reach 170. With Rinku perishing in the final over of the innings off T. Natarajan (2/30), the Knights would definitely have fallen short of the 170-mark if not for those two boundaries by the Jharkhand player.
The counter-attacking 61-run stand between Rana and Rinku for the fourth wicket also assumes huge importance as, without that, the Knights’ innings would have gone nowhere.
Rana was looking set for a big knock, but Markram’s brilliant caught-and-bowled effort ended his stay at the crease.