KKR flatten Kings XI with season-topping 245
Kolkata Knight Riders 245 for 6 (Narine 75, Karthik 50, Tye 4-41) beat Kings XI Punjab 214 for 8 (Rahul 66, Ashwin 45, Russell 3-41) by 31 runs
Flat pitch, short boundaries, the best hitters in the game. This match featured all three ingredients, and by the end of it, only one match in all 11 IPL seasons had exceeded its 40-over run aggregate of 459. In the end, Kolkata Knight Riders' total of 245, the fourth highest in IPL history, proved a stretch too far for Kings XI Punjab, who went into the match with at least one batsman too few.
KKR boasted far more depth, and almost all their batsmen fired after they were sent in on a 45-degree Indore afternoon. Sunil Narine and Dinesh Karthik did the bulk of the heavy lifting with half-centuries at 200-plus strike rates, but there were important contributions from Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell as well, and end-overs cameos from Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill.
There was, in short, no respite for Kings XI, who were also without a key bowler, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, for a significant chunk of the innings. Struck on the hand by a blistering Narine drive while bowling his second over, Mujeeb was off the field for 11.4 overs, and it was too late for him to make any sort of difference by the time he came back to bowl the 16th.
Chasing 246 with a line-up that had Axar Patel at No. 6, Kings XI were even more dependent on their openers than usual. KL Rahul kept them hoping with a 29-ball 66, but by the time he was dismissed in the ninth over, the batsmen at the other end (and extras) had only made 27 for 3 off 25 balls.
Kings XI didn't quite have the batting to chase 153 off the last 11 overs, and though there was some furious hitting from Aaron Finch and R Ashwin towards the end, it was never going to be enough.
Narine blasts off
The first 20 balls of this match gave no warning of what was to follow. Only 20 runs came off them, and two boundaries - both inside-edged past the stumps by Chris Lynn. This was partly down to the two openers gaining a feel for the conditions, and partly to Mohit Sharma tucking Narine up for room in the third over. Narine drove the 20th ball hard and flat, back to Mujeeb, who ended up going off the field with an injured bowling hand. Ashwin brought himself on to complete the over, and Narine immediately went after him, clattering his first two balls over mid-on for six and four.
It was as if Narine had flicked a switch. Having scored only seven off his first eight balls, he would smash 68 off his next 28, most of them with loose-limbed lofts in the midwicket-to-cover arc. With Lynn and Uthappa contributing 51 off 34 between them, KKR moved to 123 for 1 by the end of the 11th over.
KKR go full speed ahead
When Narine fell to an Andrew Tye short ball in the 12th over, Russell walked to the crease. Karthik joined him when Uthappa fell two balls later, slicing a slower ball to backward point. Rather than send in Rana or Gill and wait for the death overs, KKR wanted their best hitters at the crease right then.
Both delivered, exploiting Kings XI's field placements brilliantly. Russell and Karthik hit five big sixes between them, all in the arc between square leg and midwicket, but they also hit six fours and a six behind the wicket, mindful that Ashwin had stationed both third man and fine leg inside the 30-yard circle for most part. It could be argued that these fields played into Karthik's hands in particular - given his fondness for behind-the-wicket innovation - but moving third man or fine leg deeper would only have brought someone else - say long-off or square leg - into the circle. On this pitch, there was little anyone could do to stop the haemorrhage of runs.
Scooping short balls over his shoulder and reverse-slapping good-length balls between backward point and short third man, Karthik scored his first half-century of the season, getting there in 22 balls.
Another Rahul special
Over the last two years, pretty much every limitation Rahul may have thought he had as a batsman has fallen away. During his unbeaten 95 against Rajasthan Royals in Kings XI's last match, he realised perhaps too late that he's also capable of finding the boundary with scoops and reverse-hits.
Now his team needed sixes, lots of them, and Rahul immediately set about hitting them, starting in the first over with two effortless lofts over mid-off and extra-cover off Narine. There would be seven sixes in all, eventually, including a wide yorker sliced over third man, and anything seemed possible as long as he was in the middle - even when Russell sent back Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal with back-to-back bouncers in the sixth over.
But Narine, coming back to bowl the ninth over, dismissed Rahul, who dragged an attempted sweep onto the stumps, and the magnitude of their task hit Kings XI afresh.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo