All-star of the match
What started as an experiment last season when Chris Lynn dislocated his shoulder has now turned into a smashing success. Sunil Narine's promotion as an opener has yielded three match-winning half-centuries, his success built on having a calm head and outstanding balance. Impeccable timing to this deadly cocktail has made it a recipe for Kolkata Knight Riders' success in the Powerplay.
But all ingredients come with clear instructions. To curb Narine, one needs to bowl short-of-good length from around the stumps and deny him the free swing. When bowlers deviate from this template, like Kings XI Punjab did on Saturday, it is a recipe for a leather hunt.
Narine thrives on the pull, but when short of length is angled into him, it's almost as if a dimension is automatically taken away from his batting. The length has fetched him only 17 runs off 22 balls off the quicks. The margin for error on this delivery is minimal, though, because he belts them at 15.52 runs per over against length deliveries and at 12 per over against the short ball. This is what Kings XI found out the hard way.
Narine used his free swing to clobber four leg-side sixes, the arc between deep square leg and long-on fetching him 44. It wasn't just the pull, but also superb use of his wrists, the whip off his hips and the flicks that stood out. Equally noteworthy was him maintaining his shape while looking to play the slower delivery. He raced to a half-century by the ninth over and set the game up for his West Indies mate Andre Russell and captain Dinesh Karthik for a feast. Along the way, he was also helped with some luck. A number of his pull shots were mistimed, couple even flew behind the wicket.
While the pull is his calling card, it isn't his only weapon as Mujeeb Ur Rahman would find out. In trying to step out to get to the pitch of an offbreak, he drilled one straight back to the 17-year old, who copped a painful blow on his bowling wrist. At that stage, KKR had scored 20 off 20 deliveries, with Mujeeb having to walk off the field. R Ashwin stepped in to complete the over and started with a short ball that Narine clobbered into the second tier at deep midwicket. This provided him the trigger to go flat out yet again.
The wow moment
One of Narine's strengths as a bowler apart from his variations is his ability to remain unfrazzled when attacked. Rahul was on the charge, having hit him for four sixes halfway into his second over. KKR had the luxury of runs, so Narine continued to back himself. In changing his angle, he drifted the ball across Rahul, who now had to contend with a deep midwicket. So he tried to change his stroke and use the angle to beat short fine leg, but ended up opening his stance, sweeping too early and dragging the ball back onto the stumps. At 93 for 4, Kings XI's lengthy middle order had been exposed in a steep chase.
- Narine's 75 helped KKR surpass their previous IPL best of 222, achieved in the league's inaugural game in 2008. The 245 they made on Saturday is the highest IPL score without a century.
- This was Narine's third IPL fifty this season, also his slowest of the three. His first two - off 15 and 17 balls - came against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
What they said
"He's flash in the pan no more. His batting evolution has been phenomenal."
Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo