Royal Challengers Bangalore Beat 132 for 7 (Rutherford 28, Shahbaz 27, Southee 3-20, Umesh 2-16) Kolkata Knight Riders 128 (Russell 25, Hasaranga 4-20, Akash 3-45, Harshal 2-11) by three wickets
This was an IPL of fast pitches with early movement, and fast bowlers have never had it better in power play. It’s still early, of course, but neither their collective average (24.00) nor their economy rate (6.75) at this stage have improved in any previous IPL season.
KKR vs RCB ended up being heavily influenced by power play wickets, with the two sets of fast bowlers taking three each at that stage. The difference between the teams ultimately came down to what came next.
Submitted, and mindful of the significant advantage dew has given the chasing teams this season, KKR’s batters continued to push hard. The strategy could have taken off any other day, but it failed on this day; they were kicked out for 128 with seven balls unused
Short ball does the early damage
Intention, intention, intention
KKR’s response to those early wickets was to promote Sunil Narine as a pinch-hitter after the power play. And the hitting wouldn’t just come from his side. Shreyas Iyer took on Hasaranga in the first over with the fields spread, and took a long shot. This didn’t dampen Narine’s approach – he flattened Akash for a four to the ground and shoved him over the keeper’s head with a six, before being sacked by Hasaranga as he begged another big hit attempt.
Hasaranga then threw Sheldon Jackson’s first pass with a brilliant, slippery googly, but even at six down, KKR wouldn’t stop. Sam Billings turned a long-on in Harshal’s first over, leaving Russell the lone batter recognized.
Russell left Shahbaz for a couple of sixes in the 13th, before Harshal removed him in the 14th, frustrated him with a series of short balls, denied him everything in his strike arc, and found his advantage with one that bounced a little more than expected.
Umesh and Southee enter test match mode
Umesh found Anuj Rawat’s lead on the second ball of the RCB innings, with extra bounce and a little seam movement in the hallway. Virat Kohli came in and stroked the first two balls he encountered for sublimely timed boundaries, but Umesh had his revenge in his next one, getting one to squeeze away from Kohli, who fiddled and chased.
In between, Southee took on Faf du Plessis and let him catch from the lead.
With Willey – promoted to number 4 – and Rutherford taking their time early on, the power play ended with RCB 36 for 3.
Narine tightens the screws
Chakravarthy endured a rare bad day, occasionally dragging the ball too short and offering a little too much width, but Narine was his usual frugal self. As neither batter had a chance against him, he came through his first 2.5 overs while giving up only eight runs. And the pressure eventually led Willey to attempt a forcing shot, only to snap a flyout to midwicket.
At the time, RCB was four deficits and needed 67 from 54 balls.
With the wicket left over at the end of the 11th, Shahbaz walked in at number 6 and pushed Karthik – who prefers pace on the bat in the slog-overs over center spinners – further down in the order . KKR responded by pulling Narine out of the attack and possibly reserving his last over for Karthik’s entry.
Russell replaced Narine and Shahbaz skipped two crucial shots off him in the 13th: a front leg hit over the midwicket and a short ball drawn over the back square leg, both cleared the line.
Umesh and Southee came back to give away just eight from the next two overs, forcing RCB to need 36 out of 30. Shahbaz was stunned in the next over, on Chakravarthy, but not before hitting another six and stepping out to hit the ball on the vol and launch it over the side.
Harshal and Karthik finish it
The resignation of Shahbaz and the entry of Karthik immediately put Narine back on the attack and RCB played its last over carefully, with only four basehits. Needing 24 out of 18, they appeared to be in control, but KKR made an attacking bowling change to bring Southee into 18th. It may have been forced, as Russell’s awkward shoulder wouldn’t allow him to make his quota, but it meant that one of the last two overs—if Russell could bowl the other—would have to be ejected by the sixth bowler.
Southee turned the game again, taking two wickets in the 18th. Excellent field work contributed to both layoffs: the agile Jackson, who ducked to the right to grab an inside edge of the ground, helped send Rutherford back; and Russell, turning and driving back from halfway through, took an excellent rated catch when Hasaranga misplaced a hit across the infield.
However, KKR messed up a much easier fielding piece in the next over, as Umesh threw wrong, with both Karthik and Harshal stranded on the same end. Harshal let them pay with two fours left in the bottom of that 19th, bowled by Venkatesh: a scoop over a short fine leg and a club smashed to halve the long and deep midwicket.
There were seven left to get over from the last one, and Russell, still holding his shoulder gently, offered to bowl it. The first was a fairly well-aimed short ball, but Karthik spotted it early and pulled it way over the square leg boundary. A drive between the bowler and halfway through the next ball ended the match and brought much relief to a terrified RCB dugout.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo