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Knights are back to smiles

KKR players celebrate the fall of a DareDevils wicket at the Eden on Monday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: In the end, it was a story of hitting sixes and being at sixes and sevens.

The Kolkata Knight Riders were back to smiles after a convincing 71-run win over the Delhi DareDevils on Monday night at the Eden. After back-to-back defeats, the victory will surely bring winds of relief to the home camp.

In reply to the Knights' 200 for nine in 20 overs, the DareDevils got 129 in 14.2 overs. In reply to the Knights' 15 sixes, the DareDevils hit only five. Sixes and being at sixes and sevens, isn't it?

Twenty20 cricket cares little about the gentlemanly aspect of the game and is all about merciless display of power. The Knights, undoubtedly, were more powerful on the night.

And why not? When you have an Andre Russell in the team, someone who wields the bat like Thor swung his hammer, you can always flex your muscle.

Russell's 12-ball 41 was such breathtaking that it almost robbed all spotlight from Nitish Rana's 35-ball 59. Good that Rana was deservedly adjudged the Man of the Match in the end. Both, however, would have to be credited for pushing the Knights' total to 200, a burden that proved to be too heavy for the DareDevils.

With the ball, the Knights' spinners had a good outing with Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav taking three wickets each.

The DareDevils' chase kept hitting roadblocks in the form of key wickets. The start wasn't good as they were reduced to 24 for three within the third over.

The dangerous Jason Roy (1) was stumped in the very first over, bowled by Piyush Chawla. Next to go was Shreyas Iyer, as Rana took a fine catch off Russell's bowling. Then, captain Gautam Gambhir dragged one Shivam Mavi delivery on to the stumps to end his 'homecoming' on a sorry note.

It was Gambhir's 50th match at the Eden, but the former Knights captain wouldn't call it a memorable one.

The visitors' innings gathered some much-needed pace with Rishabh Pant and Glenn Maxwell combining well. While Pant contributed 43 off 26 balls, Maxwell looked good during his 47 off 22 balls. Their partnership yielded 62 runs.

But once Pant fell, caught in deep midwicket by Chawla off Kuldeep's bowling, the procession of wickets started once again.

At the fall of Vijay Shankar, the DareDevils were 117 for eight. With all their batsmen and all-rounders back in the hut, all that remained was a formality.

The match had begun very differently though when Gambhir won the toss and chose to field first.

Even as the packed Eden thundered with the decibels rising to a deafening level, the Knights' innings began on a quite note, with Trent Boult bowling a maiden over.

But after losing opener Narine (1) cheaply, Robin Uthappa (35 off 19 balls) joined Chris Lynn (31 off 29 balls) and together they collaborated for 55 runs to lift the stadium's mood.

The Knights were not oddly placed at the halfway stage, having reached 85 for the loss of two wickets. But at the same time, one wasn't sure what kind of total they would get at the end of 20 overs.

But Russell was yet to happen. Unlike Lynn, who perhaps swatted more flies with the swing of his bat than the runs he scored, Russell meant business. At the receiving end of Russell's bat was Mohammed Shami. Along with Gambhir, the spotlight was also on Shami, but for different reasons. It was Shami's first match in the city post his infamous domestic duel with wife Hasin Jahan. Russell ruined Shami's day. He hit six sixes during his stay at the crease, and quite incredibly, all six of them came off Shami's bowling.

To be fair though, one must also mention that Russell was dropped off Shami's bowling on a personal score of 7. Had Roy taken that difficult chance at long on, the DareDevils could have chased a lesser target. It is not for nothing that they say catches win matches.

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