Andre Russell showed why he is the Superman of T20 cricket, doing the business with the ball at the top and at the death to hand the Kolkata Knight Riders a thrilling victory at the Eden Gardens. The win over an unlucky Kings XI Punjab took KKR back to the top of the points table.
Put into bat first, KKR got to 164/3, thanks to a century-partnership from Gautam Gambhir (54, 45b, 6x4, 1x6) and Robin Uthappa (70, 49b, 6x4, 2x6). The Kings XI reply began horribly, as they lost three wickets for nothing, but Glenn Maxwell kept things interesting with a brilliant 68 (42b, 6x4, 4x6), before Russell (4-0-20-4) held his nerve in the final over, conceding just four runs, when KXIP needed 12, to give KKR a seven-run win.
A solid opening partnership would have been the plan for KXIP, considering they were chasing a makeable score of 165. However, instead, the top three just decided to gift their wickets.
Marcus Stoinis was the first to give his wicket away, going for a shot above mid-off, when the ball from Andre Russell was way too short to play that shot. Vijay would go on and do the same, to Morne Morkel, a ball after Russell dismissed Manan Vohra, who tapped a legside delivery straight down the throat of Shakib Al Hasan at deep backward squareleg.
At 13/3 in 3.1 overs, Kings XI needed a partnership, any partnership, just to give themselves a chance in this match by taking the chase deep. It looked like Wriddhiman Saha (24, 20b, 3x4) and Glenn Maxwell might provide that, but the former, after managing 40 runs with his Australian partner, threw his wicket away as well, going for a slow sweep off Piyush Chawla off a delivery well outside offstump.
However, those 40 runs did keep KXIP in the game, just about, as long as Maxwell and David Miller showed why they were dubbed the "M&M" a couple of years ago. The two big hitters did put on a 67-run partnership in just 6.4 overs, but there was really only one man in that alliance as Maxwell caught fire in style, with Miller playing second fiddle, scoring only 11 in the partnership.
Those big hits came to the fore quite often, with the spinners, particularly Brad Hogg, taken for plenty. Maxwell looked like he was going to take KXIP to a brilliant win, bringing the equation down to 48 from 30 balls, but a reverse-sweep, when he was hitting the ball so well down the ground, led to his demise.
At the end of the solid Piyush Chawla over, Kings XI were left needing 43 from the final four overs, and with Miller struggling for timing and a new man at the crease in Gurkeerat, KKR just put the squeeze in a little bit more, making it 35 from 18.
Time was ripe for Miller to step up, but with form completely deserting him again, the left-hander's painful innings of 13 from 18 balls was ended by a full toss from Russell.
However, there was more drama to come, as Axar Patel came in a thumped two consecutive sixes off Russell to keep KXIP in the game. At the end of a 10-run penultimate over from Morkel, Kings XI needed 12 from the final over for the win.
Russell stepped up like only he can, fashioning a brilliant run out to dismiss Axar (21, 7b, 1x4, 2x6), before another run out and a fourth wicket for Russell gave KKR an impressive win
The KKR innings was dominated by the openers â€“ Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa. The two have been crucial to KKR's success this season, and most of them before that as well, and the left and right-hand combination set the tone for the batting innings again, putting on 101 runs together. While the partnership was not the quickest â€“ it was done in 13.3 overs â€“ it looked like being the perfect platform for Russell and Yusuf Pathan to launch.
Coming off a brilliant couple of innings against RCB, much would have been expected of the two big right-handers, and while there were signs of smash-bang here and there, the two ended up being a little disappointing.
Uthappa's was what really drove this KKR innings to 164, but had Russell and Pathan found their range in the last couple of overs, it could have been easily a lot more. Plenty of chops must be given to the KXIP bowlers, who did not pick up a single wicket among them in the match â€“ all three that fell were run outs -- particularly Sandeep Sharma, whose last over went for just four runs, but, unfortunately, the batsmen couldn't quite back him up.