Kolkata's Knights at the end of the tunnel after defeating SRH by 6 wickets
Gill shows will, spinners show skills, SRH roll down the hill: Shubman Gill's half century and impressive all-round display by the bowlers guide KKR to a six-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad.
With every game, KKR is hurtling from strength to strength. After unearthing a new batting hero in Venkatesh Iyer, they stumbled on a missing block in their playoff pursuit, Shakib Al Hasan, who with Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarty restricted SRH to 115. Contrarily, with every outing, SRH's vulnerabilities are exposed one after the other.
It would be an innings Shubman Gill would keep close to his heart not only for his eye-lighting stroke-play but also for the resolve he showed in negotiating a tricky middle phase of the innings. He set off smoothly, crunching Jason Holder down the ground before fleecing Umran Malik through point, but lost the impetus midway through the knock. After racing to 23 off 20 balls, he eked out only three runs in the next 10.
In the past, he would have panicked and done something silly. But here, he rode the storm without any fuss, seeing out Rashid Khan and an inspired Siddharth Kaul, before he latched onto Jason Holder and Malik, smacking them for a brace of boundaries each. The twitchy equation, 65 off 54 balls, dropped to a manageable 44 from 42 balls. The strokes he unfurled were instructive of his cricketing acumen. He didn't look to manufacture a stroke or resort to non-percentage ones. But just waited for the bowlers to err on the shorter or fuller side, and when they did, he turned the heat on.
His exit —after 57 off 51 balls— did induce momentary panic, more so after Nitish Rana followed him after a laboured 25 off 33 balls. But the serene Dinesh Karthik soaked the pressure and wrapped up the match with a four through deep mid-wicket, with just three balls of the last over remaining.
In Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan, Kolkata Knight Riders have the most distinctive, as well as frightening, spin triumvirate in the league. The threesome wound up the dazed Sunrisers Hyderabad in a messy tangle of knots — their 12 overs combined cost just 58 runs, a bulk of those from the frenetic six-hitting of Abdul Samad, traded three wickets and piled on 45 dot balls (of 72 balls!).
Two of them come with the label mystery spinners, though in this day and age, no mystery seems mysterious enough. Everybody knows what they bowl and how they bowl, yet everybody seems confounded when countering them and therein lies perhaps their mystery. Chakravarty, perceptibly, is the most expansive of the lot, his repertoire boasting all the new-age weaponry of T20 cricket —from the carrom ball to googly, from off-break to leg-breaks. Just watch him on a loop and you understand how cricket has changed. Of course, he is no magician to bowl all these balls without a discernible change in his action, angle of delivery and release point.
Yet, this IPL he has been near decipherable, treated with wide-eyed curiosity and respect. Even Kane Williamson played him with respect — a nervy run of three balls. Later, he had Jason Holder caught in the deep, though Samad blasted three sixes to spoil his figures (yet, reads an impressive 4-0-26-1).
Once upon a time, Narine too indulged in variations. These days, he keeps himself to off-spinners, some that slide into the right-handers and some over-spun so that it would bounce awkwardly and the one that slithers away. Besides that, it's all about the change of pace and trajectory. The flatter path strips batsmen of time to step down and heave him over his head. The change of pace keeps them from premeditating, especially the sweep and the reverse-sweep. In the UAE leg, he has conceded just 6.04 runs an over while nabbing seven wickets in six games. SRH didn't give him a wicket, but in the bargain, had to settle for 12 runs in his four overs.
The third member of the group, the rarely-used Shakib, is a more conventional bowler, a left-arm orthodox bowler, sharp and subtle to prosper in all three formats. In T20s, he hardly ever flights the ball or turns the ball away from the right-hander. He mostly peddles the low-flung, more round-arm arm-ball and the brisker, fuller-length balls. Like, Narine, it's difficult to get under him and hit over the top and didn't leak a single boundary. Not to forget his effervescent fielding — SRH's backbreaking wicket of Williamson with a direct-hit—and his understated batting.
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