If the hallmark of a great game of cricket is that it goes down to the wire and thrills everyone to the bits then the 11th match of the Indian Premier League, played between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 24 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, would surely qualify as one. For much of the match, Bangalore were controlling the flow and just in the last ball of the game when they needed 4 to win with the indomitable AB de Villiers at the crease they lost the match by 2 runs thanks to a stupendous catch by Chris Lynn at the boundary that left everyone at the ground astounded.
Team composition: Both teams made some changes from the teams that played the previous games. Kolkata brought in Chris Lynn instead of Shakib Al Hasan and Umesh Yadav instead of Piyush Chawla. Bangalore meanwhile dropped Nic Maddinson and brought in Yogesh Takawale and Sachin Rana was replaced to bring in Muttiah Muralitharan.
Batting: Knight Riders were put into bat by Virat Kohli and proceeded to compile 150 for 7 wickets. The highest scorer was Chris Lynn with 45 from 31 and he revived the innings in tandem with Jacques Kallis (43 from 42 balls) after 2 wickets had fallen for 10 runs. Down the order, Uthappa (22 from 18) and Suryakumar Yadav (24 from 18) also played important knocks and ensured that the Kolkata team reached a respectable total. Chasing the gettable target Royal Challengers were always in sight thanks to an opening partnership of 67 between Parthiv Patel and Yogesh Takawale, the highest scorer for the Bangalore based team with 40 from 28 balls. Later on Kohli (31 from 23) and Yuvraj (31 from 34) tried hard but to no avail.
Bowling: When RCB bowled, speedster Varun Aaron was the best performer with 3 for 16 in 4 overs. Starc (2 for 33), and Yuzvendra Chahal (1 for 26) bowled well. Albie Morkel (1 for 21 in 2 overs) picked up a wicket but was pretty expensive. R Vinay Kumar (2 for 26), playing against his old team, stood out with his controlled bowling at the back end of the innings that played a major role in KKR winning the game. Narine (1 for 34) and Kallis (1 for 26) supported him well. Umesh Yadav (1 for 40) and Morne Morkel (34 runs in 4 overs), the opening duo, were expensive. But for Lynn’s athleticism in the final ball their lack of precision could have proved to be problematic for KKR.
Where do the teams go from here? Kolkata Knight Riders would be happy with the way they clinched a game that was almost lost but there are certain grey areas where the team management and coaching staff would like to focus on in the days to come – the lack of form of Gautam Gambhir and the way Morne Morkel is leaking runs. Gambhir is the captain and also the best batsman and right now he needs to focus on getting runs for KKR and not think of the upcoming England tour. It is evident that in the drive to get back to the national team he is unable to focus on his immediate responsibility – scoring runs atop the order for KKR. May be, he could think of dropping down the order, analyzing the opportunity and then come in at no. 3 and pace his batting accordingly. Morkel is the leading fast bowler for KKR and he needs to tighten up just a little so that he can have a greater say on the game. However, he is a class international performer and sooner, rather than later, he will be back to his usual best. Fortunately there is sufficient depth in KKR’s quick bowling this season to make sure that he could be rested and allowed to find back his groove in the nets. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. They took a strange decision of changing a winning combination and fielding Murali who could then bowl only 2 overs and went for 25 runs. In such a situation they would have been better off playing someone like Shadab Jakati, who is good with the bat and can provide some depth to the batting in the lower middle order. Better still, they should go back to the team that has won them the 2 games previously.