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Match Analysis

Andre Russell lights up Eden Gardens

A floodlight malfunction meant a 13-minute delay in Kolkata, with the hosts in need of a miracle. Up stepped Andre Russell from the darkness to pull off the impossible.

At 7.18pm, the floodlight tower on the High Court End at Eden Gardens lost power.
It was not the first time that happened.
Remember Kolkata Knight Riders' very first IPL match at home in 2008? Or the World Twenty20 match between Bangladesh and New Zealand in 2016? On both occasions, it took nearly 15 minutes for the lights to regain full brightness.
So, it was not too worrying when the umpires and players walked off in the 16th over, with Knight Riders needing 64 runs from 28 deliveries, because play was always expected to resume. But what happened during that 13-minute delay between 7.18pm and 7.31pm summed up how the game eventually panned out.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad players, ahead by eight runs on DLS, and in the midst of strangling the Knight Riders chase, looked the calmer of the two sides. The men in orange headed to the dugout for a breather, with a light mood in the Sunrisers camp. Nitish Rana, then unbeaten on 68, also picked his feet up for a breather in the Knight Riders camp. But one man who was not letting his intensity drop was Andre Russell.
Over at the practice pitches, under the floodlight tower that was still coming back to life, Russell - bat in hand - took stance. He called Simon Katich, the team batting coach, to hand him some throwdowns. While the other 12 cricketers involved in the game at that stage took a moment to catch their breath, Russell was ensuring that his focus did not waver. It's not that he was walloping Katich's throwdowns - he could've, with ease, had he wished - but was instead prodding forward every delivery to check-drive back to his coach.
When play resumed just after 7.30pm, Russell - then on 3* - stood at the non-striker's end. He witnessed Rashid Khan trap the set Rana lbw, first ball after the break. Russell, though, was not perturbed. He had other plans.
Off the 16th over's final delivery - Rashid's last of the evening - Russell clobbered a length ball outside off stump to the extra-cover fence. Most batsmen in world cricket would happily see off Rashid's final ball of the spell and take their chances in the last four overs, but Russell isn't like most batsmen. That four off Rashid's final delivery brought the equation to 59 off 24 balls, but a fantastic third over from stand-in captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar once again widened the gap between runs and balls.
With 53 needed off 18, Knight Riders and Russell were in uncharted territory. Never before had a team chased more than 52 runs in the final three overs to win an IPL game. In fact, in all T20 cricket, this had been achieved only twice. But Russell didn't know that, and so he believed.
From nine off seven balls, Russell soared to 27 off 12 by the end of the 18th over, bowled by Siddarth Kaul. By the time Bhuvneshwar finished his final over - the game's 19th - Russell had moved on to 48 off 18. Knight Riders had collected 40 runs in 12 deliveries, and with 13 needed off the final over, a win for the hosts was a mere formality. They finished the game with two balls to spare, and Russell was stranded on 49 - one short of a well-deserved fifty - but one doubts he cares. When captain Dinesh Karthik ran across the ground after Shubman Gill struck the winning runs, he first jumped on Russell. The improbable had happened, and Knight Riders became the first side to make 53 runs in the final three overs of an IPL game to win.
"I cannot describe Russell's batting, even if I wanted to. I'm absolutely lost for words," Rana said later. "The way he hit the sixes, and made us win with two balls to spare, I'm speechless.
"We know Russell is capable [to chase a difficult total], and we don't know this from today. We've known Russell's ability for a long time now, and we trust him to win games for us from improbable situations."
Russell received praise from the other camp as well, with Rashid describing the innings as a 'special knock'.
"In the death overs, we needed to bat the way Russell did," Rashid said. "Getting Rana's wicket after the floodlight-break, gave us momentum. At Eden Gardens, getting 170-180 is defendable. We put up a good total on the board, but we couldn't finish well in the final three overs, and that happens.
"Russell's innings made the difference. When you make special knocks like Russell, you totally change the game. Knocks like that from the lower-order can take scores from 150 to 180, and from 180 to 210. So we'll have this in the back of our mind moving forward to have someone with that ability in our team. We were in the game till the 17th over, but Russell just took it away from us."
Russell's innings was one to remember, coming at such a difficult stage of the game, that some fans even opened their shirts, Ganguly-at-Lord's style, to celebrate the home side's victory.
Such was the impact of Russell's innings that it relegated Rana's 47-ball 68 and David Warner's 53-ball 85 into mere footnotes.
That doesn't happen too often, but when it does, it makes for an evening to remember for the home fans.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo