Last week, Kolkata Knight Riders suffered their worst ever Indian Premier League defeat as they lost by 102 runs against Mumbai Indians on their home turf Eden Gardens. Kolkata were outclassed with both bat and ball as they suffered their second defeat to Mumbai Indians this season.
The manner of the defeat saw co-owner and Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan take to Twitter and slam the team. In his tweet, he criticised the team’s lack of spirit and as boss he apologised to their fans for the below-par performance at Eden that night.
Onus was on Dinesh Karthik and Co to heed to their boss’s words and mend their faltering ways. On Saturday, against Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders not only stepped up to the challenge, but did so with a spirit that would have made their boss proud.
It was an all-round performance that saw Knight Riders thump Kings XI by 31 runs and ensure that they remained in contention for a place in the play-offs by jumping into fourth spot in the league standings.
Kolkata were put into bat on a track that saw the previous seven games being won by the chasing team. With the pressure to perform, the team had to start with a positive mind-set, which was the need of the hour.
At the forefront of this onslaught was the Caribbean pair of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell. The duo performed with both bat and ball to help Kolkata notch up their sixth win of the tournament.
Narine was the first to get into the act as he opened the batting with Chris Lynn. Lynn quickly got off the blocks by smashing Mohit Sharma for back-to-back boundaries. The Australian looked in good nick as he notched up 27 runs before playing the ball onto the stumps as Kolkata lost their first wicket for 53 runs. This was the first time the duo notched up a 50+ partnership as well.
However, after that, it was the Sunil Narine show in Indore as he tore into R Ashwin with a four and six in the fourth over. He went on to make 75 runs of just 36 balls in an innings that included four towering sixes and nine boundaries. Thanks to his knock, Kolkata kept scoring at a rate of 10 runs per over.
Andre Russell soon took over from Narine after he was promoted up the order so that he could play himself in and help the team reach the 200-run mark. Russell did so before hitting Axar Patel for two towering sixes. He ended up with 31 runs off just 14 balls and also took this team past the 200-run mark.
Even with the ball, it was Russell that got the breakthrough for Kolkata when he got back-to-back wickets of the dangerous Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal. Narine too got into the act with the ball after being smashed for 15 runs in his first over. He clean bowled KL Rahul in his second over as Rahul top scored with 66 for Punjab.
DK leads from the front
However, credit has to be given to Captain Dinesh Karthik who led from the front on Saturday. With the team low on confidence, Karthik had to step in and motivate his boys to put their best effort against Punjab.
Karthik himself smashed a 23-ball 50 to register his highest individual score this season. And the team rallied behind their captain as each and every player gave their all on the field. The likes of Shubam Gill, who hit an 8-ball 16, and Nitish Rana, who hit 11 off 4 balls also made sure they did their best despite a short stay at the crease.
Karthik also made smart bowling changes as he cashed in on his fast bowlers early on and then backed his spinners towards the end as the pitch would turn slow and assist them later. At the halfway mark, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla made it difficult for the Punjab batsmen to score runs as the run-rate kept creeping up. Prasidh Krishna also finally showed his skills with the ball as he picked up the wickets of Ashwin and Andrew Tye to put an end to Punjab’s innings in the last over.