Ten overs into the 158-run chase against Chennai Super Kings, it seemed as if the Knight Riders of the infamous batting meltdowns had shown up to play. The absence of Robin Uthappa and Jacques Kallis left plenty of volatility to go around. Within a period of 16 balls between the third and the fifth overs, Knight Riders lurched haplessly from 9 for 0 to 9 for 2 and then 21 for 4. Ashish Nehra took three of those wickets, including two off two in the third over and Mohit Sharma, his run-up issues notwithstanding, had managed to get one, too. Soon, Suryakumar Yadav was gone and Knight Riders were 51 for 5.
The scorecard will show the pair had added 80 runs in 45 balls but the numbers fall short of describing the brutality with which ten Doeschate and Russell accumulated the runs, underlining their reputations as short-format specialists. Russell, in particular, has played a few innings like these for Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League and it was his charge in the 11th over from Ravindra Jadeja that signalled the change in the game. Russell smacked two sixes and a four in a 17-run over to temper the required run rate and give Knight Riders room to breathe.
Thereon, the pair did not allow the Super Kings bowlers to pile on the pressure. Dwayne Bravo bowled a couple of quiet overs but the batsmen controlled the run rate well, taking 18 runs off the 16th over, from Mohit, to drag the equation down to a winnable 32 off 24. The game was decidedly in Knight Riders’ hands and although they lost two wickets towards the end, there was little Super Kings could do to wrest the advantage back.
Where Russell’s fifty was all power – he finished with a strike rate of 232 – ten Doeschate was calmer, turning the strike repeatedly but finding the six and the four at the right moment in an over. He continued in the same vein after Russell fell, and brought up his fifty with a six in the final over of the match.
Earlier, the experience of MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo lifted the Super Kings to 157 after the side had threatened to fall into a rut against Knight Riders’ spin attack. The pair changed gears effortlessly to rack up 61 in the last six overs, after the spin trio of Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine and Yusuf Pathan had nullified a brisk start from Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum. A couple of close calls also went the Knight Riders’ way, especially the dismissals of McCullum, Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis. McCullum was given out lbw although a replay showed that the ball had missed his pad and hit the batsman’s hand. Raina was given out lbw to Sunil Narine even as replays were uncertain over whether the bowler had overstepped. Du Plessis was given out stumped when replays showed that his foot was marginally in the air when Manvinder Bisla whipped the bails off.
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