Russell pulls off last-minute heist for KKR

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24 Mar 2019 | 02:44 PM

Russell pulls off last-minute heist for KKR



Cricinfo recently ran an image of master batsman Barry Richards – who, among other feats, once scored 325 in course of a single 1970 day in the Australian domestic competition – holding up his bat in one hand, and Warner’s in the other.

The one looked like a wood shaving; the other, like one of those clubs Indian wrestlers swing with such insouciance as part of their warm up routine. The point of the accompanying piece was that bats had been replaced by bludgeons, to the detriment of cricket as a contest between bat and ball.


I once tried swinging an Indian club. All was fine, once I figured out the knack of the wrist-twist that got the club vertical and in a position to swing. I got it up shoulder height, swung it behind my head, went ouch, let go of the club, and spent the next week treating a wrenched shoulder.


That’s the thing with bludgeons – it’s not enough to have one, you have to know what to do with it. Warner does.


Pre-game talk centred on his return: would he be in form, would he be able to settle back in, would he manage to put the ban and related unpleasantness behind him and find the form that made him the cynosure during the 2017 season.


All these questions had one response: Yes. It was as if 2018 hadn’t happened. It began with the second over of the innings, bowled by Piyush Chawla. Warner rocked back to cut a wrong ‘un for four, then followed it up two balls later with a backfoot punch through the covers – and it was as if 2018 hadn’t happened, as if Warner was picking up where he had left off in 2017.


To shift the metaphor from wrestling to boxing, Warner on song has a bit of Mike Tyson about him – power, agility, athleticism, and a ferocious aggression that wears the opponent down, deprives him of wind, and scrambles his brains. It was all there – the punches, the flat bat swats, the conventional cuts, the upper cuts – a relentless display of power and precision harnessed to aggression.

There was some expectation that Sunil Narine, recovered from a recent injury and with a remodelled action, would play the role of enforcer. That hope lasted for all of one over, the fifth of the innings, in which Warner took him for two boundaries to take Sunrisers to 54/0 at the end of the powerplay.


An upper cut for six off Andre Russell in the 9th over took Warner to his individual 50 (53 off 31, eight fours and a six); another hit, this one a straight swat off the last ball of the tenth over, had SRH at an impressive 92/0 at the halfway mark. Warner was 62 off 36 at the time; Jonny Bairstow, going at 30 off 26, in comparison looked as if he was creeping along on crutches.


For all the big hits, though, what made the opening partnership work was that both batsmen rotated strike constantly. With the fielders pushed back on their heels by the power hitting, the southpaw Warner and the right-handed Bairstow seized every opportunity to push and run, in the process never allowing a single KKR bowler to settle into any sort of rhythm.



It was going to need something out of the ordinary to get rid of Warner – and Uthappa at cover produced it, diving headlong to get his hands wrapped around a ferocious smashed drive by Warner at Russel, three balls after the batsman had spotted the slower one and slapped it back over the bowler for six. Warner went for 85/53; the experiment of promoting Yusuf Pathan to number four failed, and it was Vijay Shankar, riding on the confidence of his recent successful run under the India cap, who gave his team the finishing kick, his unbeaten 40 off 24 with two fours and two sixes taking his side to a potentially winning 181/3 in the allotted 20.


KKR used seven bowlers. Chawla was the most “economical”, at 7.66; Ferguson went for 8.5; Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Rana all went for over 9 and Andre Russell for 10.6.


Bhuvi Kumar led KKR onto the field – only the second time he is leading a team. Warner didn’t get the memo – for most of the KKR innings, Warner was the one frantically waving fielders into various positions while Bhuvi shrugged and concentrated on rotating his bowlers.


Nitish Rana was preferred to open with Chris Lynn, ahead of Sunil Narine. Lynn raised visions of doing a Warner when he greeted Shakib al Hasan, bowling the second over of the chase, with a shimmy down the track and a straight loft onto the clubhouse roof. He attempted to repeat that shot three balls later; Shakib spotted Lynn backing away to leg to make room, followed him, cramped him for room and Lynn ended up putting it up in the air on the off where four SRH fielders could have caught it. Rashid was the one who did.


Rashid Khan, SRH’s trump, was introduced in the 8th over. Nitish Rana, going well at that point, backed away and lofted straight. Yusuf Pathan only had to move a few steps; he settled nicely under the skier and, defying all physical laws, managed to miss it completely. KKR then were 58/1 with Rana on 25/20, batting in company of Robin Uthappa.


40/1 at the end of 5 overs meant KKR was in touch with the target, but behind the pace SRH had set. KKR was further behind by the 10th over, at 70/1 (38 behind SRH at that stage), with the required run rate climbing to 11.2. It didn’t help that Rashid, who bowled the 10th, gave away just two. Shakib was brought on for the 11th, and Rana and Uthappa decided he had to go – Uthappa started the over with a six over deep square, Rana finished it off with a six over long on.


For all that, though, KKR had just managed to get the 11+ they needed off that over; not making up for the previous one. That is how pressure mounts – and it told, when Uthappa tried to step away and carve Siddharth Kaul, in for Shakib, over point, missed the line and was bowled (35/27). Dinesh Kartik walked out at four; Sandeep Sharma foxed him with a slower one that the KKR captain played at too early, and popped up the simplest of catches to his counterpart at mid-off.


Rana played a very good hand, scoring his sixth IPL 50 and cashing in on Pathan’s gratuitous gift with big hits every now and again to release pressure. A fifteen minute delay because some of the lights went off disrupted KKR’s rhythm a little. First ball after resumption, Rana (68/47) played the wrong line to a Rashid Khan flipper, was adjudged plumb, and KKR needed 64 off 27 at 15.3.


And then Andre Russell came to the party. He warmed up with two sixes and a four against Siddarth Kaul in the 18th, then turned it on against the normally reliable Bhuvi in the 19th, smashing four, six, four, dot, six and a single to plunder 21 runs in the over, to leave the ask at 13 off six in the final over, to be bowled by Shakib.


Russell got off strike with a single off a missed heave; Shubman Gill then stepped up to club two sixes in three balls to nail the chase with two balls still to go – a stunning spurt of 52 off 16 balls turning the match on its axis and giving the hosts a come-from-behind win against the odds.


This was the kind of game that the IPL is known for: Big scores, fluctuating fortunes, a game that with

This was the kind of game that the IPL is known for: Big scores, fluctuating fortunes, a game that with

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