The gag was that if Sunil Narine
didn't get his bowling action sorted
, he could make this Kolkata Knight Riders squad as an opening batsman alone. In Knight Riders' opening game of the season, he showed just why someone would think that way.
In fact, Narine proved more than handy on both fronts, as he first put the strangle on Royal Challengers Bangalore's brisk start, and then returned to blast them out of the game with a 17-ball fifty at the start of the chase. It wasn't unlike the last time he batted against Royal Challengers in May last year
, when he made a 15-ball half-century (the joint-fastest fifty in the IPL until earlier on Sunday) as he and Chris Lynn smashed the record for the most runs in a T20 Powerplay.
There was nothing new to Narine's game this time; he stayed still in the crease, waited for balls to arrive at a length and struck cleanly through the line. He was helped along the way by Virat Kohli's strategy of using Yuzvendra Chahal in the first over and persisting with spin throughout the Powerplay, often without a long-off in place. By the time their fastest bowler was introduced, he had taken Knight Riders to a scoring rate of 13 per over.
In the second over, Lynn was dismissed by Chris Woakes, who is the spearhead in what Kohli has often called Royal Challengers' most-balanced bowling line-up ever. When he stood at the top of his mark to bowl the fourth over to Narine, having gone for only four in his first over, it was Royal Challengers' big chance to seize control of the game and undo an embarrassing losing streak, one that began with being bowled out for 49 at this very venue last year.
But Narine quickly ended any chance of a change in script when he backed away against the second ball, an offcutter of the same line and length that had got Lynn, and swatted it over midwicket with disdain. It began what would be Woakes' worst over of the night, in which he leaked 20 runs. When Narine got out, he had faced 19 of the 32 balls bowled in the innings and scored nearly 77% of the team's runs. They were 65 for 1 when he got out for 50 Narine scores at 14.37 runs per over against spinners in the IPL, as opposed to 8.17 per over against pace. The decision to bowl three overs of spin in the first five played into his hands
"It's good to get the ball rolling right away. I wouldn't see myself as an opening batsman. That's the role I get to play, if I get out the first ball, it's okay."
Sunil Narine on how little the role affects him