Kolkata Knight Riders 182 for 5 (Nitish 51, Russell 42, Roy 38, Chahar 2-23) beat Punjab Kings 179 for 7 (Dhawan 57, Varun 3-26, Harshit 2-33) by five wickets
Kolkata Knight Riders hung on by the skin of their teeth, both in their match against Punjab Kings and in the tournament. Rinku Singh sealed another last-ball win for them, but this was no miraculous comeback from the dead. This was a topsy-turvy contest set up by KKR’s spinners, but even their batters struggled on a slow surface.
The result left KKR and PBKS level at 10 points from 11 matches. Five teams are currently tied on that points total in the middle of the table, but both Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians – who meet on Tuesday – have a game in hand.
Harshit Rana keeps a check
PBKS were always going to target the new ball because they expected the spinners to be effective on this pitch, which is why they batted first. Prabhsimran Singh was up early, using Vaibhav Arora’s inswing to pick up three boundaries in the first over.
The impressive Harshit Rana, though, bowled hard lengths and got disconcerting bounce from the pitch. He had both Prabhsimran and Bhanuka Rajapaksa caught at the wicket while looking to hit big shots. Rajapksa’s return to the side ended with a three-ball duck. Liam Livingstone still kept going hard, helping PBKS take 19 off the fifth over, bowled by Russell, to make it 51 for 2.
The spin choke
KKR are not shy to use spin during the powerplay or at the death. They had picked three spinners. So they began the spin attack in earnest. Varun Chakravarthy got the first shot, and produced a beautiful legbreak to trap the rampaging Livingstone in front.
Once again, Varun produced the breakthrough, spinning the ball away from Jitesh, taking the edge through to the keeper. Nitish brought himself on when two left-hand batters were at the wicket, and got Dhawan for 57 off 47. Suyash proceeded to tighten the screws with the wicket of Sam Curran. In effect, PBKS were tied down on a slow pitch by 13 straight overs of spin, which brought them just 92 runs for five wickets.
Pace on, game on
As soon as KKR went back to pace for the last two overs, PBKS came back to life and took 36 runs to make it a total of 87 from just seven overs of pace. Shahrukh Khan scored 21 off 8, and Harpreet Brar 17 off 9.
Nathan Ellis gives PBKS early lead
A similar pattern of batters going after pace followed but Nathan Ellis, deservingly playing ahead of Kagiso Rabada, flummoxed Rahmanullah Gurbaz with his slower one. At 39 for 1 after five overs, with Venkatesh Iyer not allowed to bat at No. 3 at that moment because he had spent time off the field during the PBKS innings, KKR needed something special.
Rana attacks Livingstone
PBKS went to take pace off the ball, but Jason Roy and Nitish managed to hit Livingstone for a total of five boundaries in his two overs. It softened the blow of KKR losing Roy to Brar with the ball arriving too late for his slog-sweep. The equation had got tricky – 104 from 10 overs on a tricky surface – when Nitish took down Livingstone’s second over, bringing KKR’s task down to 88 from 54 balls.
Chahar keeps PBKS in it
He might not be having the greatest season, but Rahul Chahar turned up for PBKS with the wickets of Iyer and Rana, earned through the slowing down of pace, which he himself carried out. At the fall of Rana’s wicket, KKR needed 56 off 28, and it was down to Russell and Rinku.
The finishing touches
Chahar bowled out in the 16th over, leaving KKR 51 to get off 24, but PBKS had a question to answer: bowl four overs of pace or go to Brar’s left-arm spin. They took the safe route. Ellis bowled out in the 17th, but went for 15 as Russell hit a four and Rinku a six. Ellis’ figures of 4-0-29-1 almost made up for the absence of the extra spinner, but KKR were still ahead in the game.
With 26 required off two, though, Curran made a couple of errors in execution, and Russell climbed in with two sixes over the bigger boundary. For good measure he skimmed one over the short side too.
Arshdeep bowled a superb last over, denying Russell the big hit, and then running him out as he scrambled for a bye to tie the game off the fifth ball. Off the last ball, Arshdeep finally erred, and Rinku flicked the full-toss square of fine leg to get twice the requirement.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo