Kolkata Knight Riders 177 for 6 (Russell 49*, Billings 34, Malik 3-33) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 123 for 8 (Abhishek 43, Markram 32, Russell 3-22, Southee 2-23) by 54 runs
Kolkata Knight Riders kept their campaign alive and pushed Sunrisers Hyderabad's to the brink with a 54-run win, which gave them a decent net-run-rate boost.
It took a responsible innings from Andre Russell to take Knight Riders to a challenging total after they decided to bat first. Russell's 49 off 28 was among his slowest innings of this length or more, but he waited for the spinner's over, which Sunrisers held back because of his presence at the crease. Then, in the final over, bowled by Washington Sundar, he took 20 runs.
Sunrisers' batting woes continued in the chase with Kane Williamson adding to arguably the worst IPL season for a batter and a captain. Only Abhishek Sharma and Aiden Markram pushed Knight Riders but not for long enough to threaten a win.
Bat first, start slow
This is now the tenth match out of 13 in Pune that the side batting first has won. And yet this was only the second time a team chose to bat first. Even Sunrisers would have done the same, which suggests they expected the pitch to slow down. Before that came a slow start in which Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Marco Jansen gave the Knight Riders openers nothing. Just two boundaries came in the first four overs, which brought 20 runs for the loss of Venkatesh Iyer.
All of a sudden, a slow innings went into overdrive. Runs came quickly, wickets fell too. Before the wickets fell, though, Nitish Rana transformed the slow start with 26 off 16. He took 17 out of the 18 conceded in the fifth over by T Natarajan, who was returning from an injury layoff, and then ramped Jansen for a six to end the powerplay.
Ajinkya Rahane, though, appeared to do his hamstring, and decided to take higher risks. Then came the high pace of Umran Malik, who took out Rana, Rahane and Shreyas Iyer in his first two overs. And when Natarajan trapped Rinku Singh with a yorker, Russell walked in as early as the 12th over, with Knight Riders 94 for 5.
Keeping an offspinner back for the death overs is not the smartest idea on paper but Knight Riders were five down and Williamson perhaps hoped to get Russell out before needing to bring Washington back. His quicks were nearly at their best against Russell. Malik, Bhuvneshwar and Natarajan collectively kept Russell and Sam Billings quiet. Russell was 10 off 11 and 30 off 23 at two points in his innings, which is usually a win for the bowling side. Billings eventually went past a run a ball but couldn't manage major damage before falling to a slower ball from Bhuvneshwar in the 19th over.
In the process of looking for Russell's wicket, though, Sunrisers pushed their spinner's over right to the end. To his credit, Russell played percentage cricket, not taking extravagant risks when he didn't get the boundary balls from the quicks.
Washington began the last over well with a yorker and then conceded just a single to the new batter Sunil Narine, but a whole over is too long a time for a spinner against these two hitters. Washington missed the blockhole three times out of four in the rest of the over, and Russell hit all three for sixes.
Abhishek the lone warrior
In an interview at half time, Russell said 170 would have been a good score, and that Knight Riders had bonus runs. That would suggest Sunrisers would need everything to go their way in the chase. However, Williamson's wretched run continued with yet another innings under a run a ball. When he finally attempted a ramp, Russell bowled him in the fifth over.
At the other end, though, Abhishek took down a second legend this IPL season. After scoring 47 off 23 Rashid Khan balls, he consigned Narine to his costliest over this IPL, costing him 17 runs.
At the other end, though, runs hardly arrived. Rahul Tripathi tried as usual but kept finding the fielders, none more frustratingly than the full-blooded drive that ended up as a return catch for Tim Southee. Having faced only 27 balls out of 70, Abhishek eventually took one risk too many and skied Varun Chakravarthy.
Hardly anyone has taken Narine on in this IPL, choosing instead to play him out, which showed in just the eight wickets for him coming into this match but also an economy rate of well under six. He went for 30 in his first three but made up for it with his ninth wicket of the season, of Nicholas Pooran, in the fourth.
With Sunrisers now needing 102 off 45, Markram had to go for everything. He managed to hit three sixes before playing Umesh Yadav on.
The net run-rate boost
It was now all about the margin of defeat because net run-rate can come in handy in the final equation. Shashank Singh and Washington batted normally until the end of the 17th but then Russell and Southee took quick wickets to restrict Sunrisers to 123 for 8.