Andre Russell was only in the Kolkata Knight Riders playing XI owing to injuries and pull-outs. But, boy did he made use of the opportunity, playing a blinding 58 from 25 balls (4x5, 5x6) to pull KKR from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory with a few massive, intelligent swings of the blade.
Using the depth of the crease to great effect to convert yorkers into length deliveries, Russell pummelled the CSK bowlers, medium pacers and spinners, to oblivion and back to take KKR to a stunning opening win in the Champions League T20.
The Hyderabad crowd got to witness MS Dhoni (35) wield that big willow of his to good effect in the first innings of their CLT20 2014 encounter at the Rajiv Gandhi Cricket Stadium, as the CSK skipper guided his side to 157 for four in 20 overs after being asked to bat by Gautam Gambhir.
In reply, KKR, the IPL 2014 champions, were in deep, deep trouble on 51 for five from nine overs, only for Russell to come and play with that nothing-to-lose mentality to take the game away from the Super Kings.
Russell put on 80 in 7.3 overs with the imperturbable Ryan Ten Doeschate (51 n.o., 41b, 3x4, 2x6) to turn the match around in style, before the latter saw the match through, after Russell finally fell in the 17th over, as KKR finished on 159 for seven in 19 overs.
The chase was a shambles to begin with, as KKR failed to find any kind of momentum, losing four wickets within the first five overs. Gautam Gambhir, feeling a little lost without his usual opening partner Robin Uthappa, who was ruled out through injury, was the first to go, mistiming a hoick straight to Dwayne Bravo at mid-on off the bowling of Ashish Nehra.
Nehra would then make it two wickets in two balls as Manish Pandey slammed the ball straight to Mohit Sharma at mid-on with the fast bowler latching onto a nice low catch. At nine for two in the third over, KKR were in serious trouble, and it only got worse, as Yusuf Pathan edged one off Mohit Sharma's first delivery.
Mohit only bowled the fourth over of the innings after a bit of a mix-up, with Dhoni initially wanting Ishwar Pandey to continue with his second over; however, since Mohit had already began his run-up before Dhoni realised the mistaken identity, the bowler was forced to continue and even the CSK skipper could not avoid a sheepish smile as the fast bowler struck first ball.
Manvinder Bisla, standing in for Uthappa, soon after, saw his innings of two from 11 balls come to an end as a lean and mean Nehra picked up his third wicket to put CSK right on top.
Ten Doeschate and Suryakumar Yadav (19, 17b, 1x4, 1x6) quelled the rot a little bit with a 30-run partnership, before Russell decided to make a game of it by smashing a few sixes and fours off the spinners.
Russell and Ten Doeschate brought down the target to a makeable-if-the-two-keep-going 70 from the final seven overs, before a slam-banger off Mohit in the 16th over, which went for 18 runs, courtesy a couple of sixes and a four from Russell, brought the equation all the way down to a mere 32 from the final four overs.
With Russell in this kind of mood and the level head of Ten Doeschate in the crease, KKR were never going to lose it as CSK were left to wonder just what hit them, despite the former's wicket in the 17th over off a corker of a yorker from Nehra (4-0-21-4).
The first innings was a bit of a teaser from the Chennai Super Kings, one time looking primed for a big score, before in the blink of an eye crashing right back down to earth, only for that man Dhoni to lift the CSK fans to their feet again.
The deadly duo of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith would have eyed a smashing opening, but it was not to be as the latter, dropped in the first over by Yusuf Pathan, fell in just the fourth over, after a quickfire 20 (13b, 4x4) – leg-spinner Piyush Chawla picking up the first wicket, and giving a sense of what was to come.
The KKR bowling was about two things – the spinners, who strangled the CSK batsmen and picked up all four wickets that fell down, and the faster bowlers, who went for plenty – 104 in nine overs to be precise.
In the middle phase, it was all about the spinners and particularly Sunil Narine, who, yet again, showed just why he is considered the best in this format.
The West Indian was ridiculously difficult to get away – even fellow Trinidadian Bravo, could do little but waft at air and block delivery after delivery – conceding just nine runs in his four overs, while also picking up the wicket – the crucial one – of Suresh Raina, who looked good in his 24-ball 28 (3x4).
CSK lost their way a little after the Powerplay and till the end of the 13th over, as Brendon McCullum (22, 19b, 3x4) – unluckily given lbw despite the ball striking his gloves rather than his pad – Raina and Faf Du Plessis (14, 16b, 1x4) all fell to the spinners.
Then came the innings-changing partnership of 71 from 7.3 overs between Dhoni and Bravo (28 n.o., 28b, 2x4, 2x6), back in the CSK fold after missing the bulk of IPL 2014 through injury, as the experienced duo turned their team's fortunes around in splendid fashion.
It was intelligent batting from the two, hitting the boundaries when it was on offer and rotating the strike whenever possible, with Dhoni (35 n.o., 20b, 3x4, 2x6) showing his power and panache in the end overs, finishing the innings off with a stunningly massive six off Umesh Yadav.
However, with Russell playing a ridiculous knock, CSK fell just short as KKR ran away with their tenth straight T20 victory.