West Indian all – rounder Andre Russell’s spectacular performance helped defending champion Kolkata Knight Riders beat Kings XI Punjab by four wickets in the IPL-8 match in Pune. The Jamaican allrounder hit a blistering 66 off 36 balls after KKR was reeling at 60 for five. From there, Knight Riders cantered to victory in 17.5 overs. It was a day to remember for Russell as he first took two wickets for 39 apart from a couple of smart catches during the KXIP innings. With the willow, he belted nine fours and two sixes adding 95 runs in 9.2 overs for the sixth wicket with Yusuf Pathan to take his team home. Russell reached his 50 off 28 balls with eight boundaries and a six and when he was finally out, KKR had tied the scores.
Defending a not so big total, the KXIP bowlers needed to do well upfront and young Sandeep Sharma responded brilliantly with figures of four for 25. He polished off the top-order with some incisive swing bowling, reducing KKR to 60 for five in eight overs.
He got the ball to shape in consistently getting Robin Uthappa (13), Manish Pandey (12) and Ryan ten Doeschate (0) with incoming deliveries. ten Doeschate may have been a bit unlucky as replays showed that he had got an inside edge. Skipper Gautam Gambhir, who has been pretty consistent so far, got one which Sandeep slanted across and Wriddhiman Saha took an easy catch. Saha later took a brilliant diving catch to cut short Suryakumar Yadav’s cameo when he tried to steer a Thisara Perera delivery towards the vacant third-man boundary.
Earlier, a disciplined performance by the Knight Riders bowlers restricted KXIP to 155 for nine in 20 overs. Skipper George Bailey once again played a useful hand with a 45-ball 60, while Glenn Maxwell (33) also showed some promise but could not stay for long after being dropped by Yusuf Pathan. Pacers Umesh Yadav (three for 33), Morne Morkel (two for 27) and Andre Russell (two for 39) were impressive as they never let the KXIP batsmen dominate. Spinner Sunil Narine (one for 17) was the most economical bowler.
The highlight of the KXIP innings was a 63-run stand for the fourth wicket between Bailey and Maxwell. Maxwell got a lease of life when Yusuf Pathan dropped a sitter at deep mid-wicket off Russell’s bowling. It was the simplest of chances. Maxwell was on 13 and KXIP was not out of the woods at 51 for three.But the Aussie couldn’t capitalise on the ‘life’ although he showed glimpses of returning to form during his 26-ball 33 (2×4, 2×6).
After being put in, Murali Vijay (0) failed to open his account, done in by the extra bounce and Russell taking a smart catch running in from mid-wicket. Saha (15) did hit a four and a six but did not look comfortable against the extra bounce. After successfully connecting two pull shots, he failed while attempting a third pull off Morne Morkel and the thickish outside edge was taken by Pathan at first slip. Virender Sehwag (11) hit a lovely square drive off Russell bisecting the fielders at point and gully. But Russell got his revenge when he fired one in and the flick was snapped up by Piyush Chawla at short square-leg. KXIP was reduced to 27 for three before the Maxwell-Bailey duo resurrected the innings.