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Sports

May 19, 2017

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Knight Riders survive rain scare in first Eliminator

Knight Riders survive rain scare in first Eliminator

BANGALORE: With half their Eliminator completed, Kolkata Knight Riders’ players must have sat in their dugout, cursing. Cursing the weather, the scheduling, themselves. They had won the toss and bowled excellently to restrict Sunrisers Hyderabad to 128. Conditions at the Chinnaswamy Stadium were far from ideal to bat in, but only six teams had ever defended a 20-overs total of 128 or less in the IPL. All six instances had occurred in or before the 2013 season.

And then it had rained, and rained some more.

Were this match to be washed out, Knight Riders would be knocked out, since they had finished fourth on the league table and Sunrisers third. They had lost their last two matches and blown a massive chance to finish in the top two.

Were the IPL’s playing conditions uniform across all matches, Knight Riders would have been knocked out. But the playing conditions for playoffs allow for a five-over match to begin as late as 12.26 am — nearly four-and-a-half hours past the scheduled match start — and for a Super Over to be played as far into the night as 1.20 am.

And so, three hours and 18 minutes after the rain had begun — a wait longer than most T20 games — Knight Riders’ batsmen began the task of following up their bowlers’ good work. Instead of 129 in 20 overs, they would now need to chase 48 in six.

Panic set in. Knight Riders meddled with their batting order, and then lost three wickets in 1.1 overs. But a shortened second innings favours the chasing team in a most exaggerated manner. Given how they bowled, Sunrisers may have thought they could have pushed for a win in a full-duration game, but as it happened, Knight Riders strode home with four balls to spare, their captain Gautam Gambhir easing them past the early jitters with an unbeaten 32 off 19 balls.

The Chinnaswamy of 2017 hasn’t been the Chinnaswamy of IPLs past: the average first-innings total during the league stage was 148. The pitch for the Eliminator wasn’t a belter either; it was full of cracks and dark spots, and proved, unsurprisingly, to be two-paced and grippy.

Knight Riders’ spinners got the ball to turn sharply, which greatly exaggerated the difficulty of facing Sunil Narine in particular, and their seamers hardly gave the batsmen anything to drive. Of the 72 balls that Knight Riders’ three quicks sent down, 53 were pitched either short or short of a good length, with constant pace variations thrown in. Off those 53 short or shortish balls, Sunrisers scored 46. The short ball occasionally sat up to be hit — the pull was a productive shot for David Warner and Kane Williamson during a second-wicket stand of 50 in 46 balls — but short of good length proved almost impossible to hit: 18 balls, eight runs conceded.

The Warner-Williamson partnership moved Sunrisers to 75 for 1 in 11.5 overs, which seemed a decent-enough platform on a far-from-straightforward pitch until both batsmen fell in the space of three balls. Williamson picked out extra-cover off a slower ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile, and Warner was bowled playing across a Piyush Chawla flipper.

Vijay Shankar flickered briefly to score 22 off 17, but there was little else of note from the middle and lower order as Sunrisers only managed 53 in their last 49 balls. Coulter-Nile finished with three wickets, and Umesh Yadav — who dismissed Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh — with two.

Given that the chasing team has ten wickets in both cases, getting 48 in six overs is an indisputably more straightforward ask than getting 129 in 20. Knight Riders still had to go out and get the runs. They opened with Chris Lynn, as always, and Robin Uthappa, for the first time this season. Lynn slapped Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s second ball over point to erase an eighth of the target, but top-edged to the keeper next ball. Yusuf Pathan, haring out of his crease for an impossible leg-bye, was run out next ball.

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