Spinners stretch Knight Riders’ streak to 11

Kolkata Knight Riders’ four-wicket victory over Lahore Lions followed the template that has largely been the basis of their 11-game winning run: bowl first, then Sunil Narine and the other spinners smother the opposition, before Robin Uthappa and the rest of top order click to set up the chase of a lightweight target.

The match will be remembered, if at all, for the abysmal fielding. The sheer number of catches put down, stumpings missed and regulation stops messed up was astonishing. Narine, though, turned in another world-class bowling performance which underlined his reputation as the best in the business in Twenty20s, and 19-year-old chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav added to the buzz about him with a stirring effort to stifle Lions.

Lions’ best phase of the game was the opening Powerplay, when Ahmed Shehzad struck some big hits down the ground to push the score to 47 for 0. This despite Narine sending down a maiden in the fifth over. A stunning direct hit from Andre Russell broke the opening stand in the seventh over, by when the wicketkeeper Manvinder Bisla had already mucked up two straightforward stumpings.

The spinners took charge in the middle overs, with Kuldeep showing solid control for a wrist-spinner, getting his stock ball to turn plenty and using the wrong ‘un to confuse the batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez spent much of his short innings trying to heave the ball to midwicket before he became Kuldeep’s first victim, holing out for 9.

When Shehzad found Uthappa at long-off in the 13th over to finish on a chancy 59, Lions’ top-heavy batting was in trouble, especially with three Narine overs to come. The trepidation of the lesser lights of Lions’ batting was obvious when they faced Narine: Saad Nasim missed his first ball and edged his second to short cover, Umar Siddiq lasted one more before being done in by the quicker one, and Asif Raza was bowled first ball. Narine nearly had a hat-trick, but Wahab Riaz had his boot back in the crease before Bisla could break the stumps.

Umar Akmal was still there, though, and he clobbered Piyush Chawla and Pat Cummins to lift Lions past 150. Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, aided by some comically inept fielding, put on a century stand to set Knight Riders on course for victory. They were coasting for a large part of the chase before a slew of wickets towards the end briefly made things tight, only for Suryakumar Yadav to finish it off with a 5-ball 14.

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