RRR – Russell, Rinku, Rana show keep KKR’s playoff hopes alive

PTI, May 9, 2023, 8:08 AM IST

Image credit: Twitter / @IPL

Kolkata: Rinku Singh added another bright chapter to his legend as a “finisher” with a last-ball boundary as Kolkata Knight Riders beat Punjab Kings by five wickets on Monday to keep their IPL play-off hopes alive.

It was a complete ‘RRR’ show by KKR as skipper Nitish Rana’s half-century and Andre Russell adding muscle to the chase of 180 enabled Rinku to finish off the game with a 10-ball-21 not out.

Earlier, Varun Chakravarthy once again brilliantly spearheaded their bowling department to grab 3/26 as KKR put up a tidy bowling show to restrict PBKS to a below-par 179 for seven after the visitors opted to bat on a slow wicket.

In reply, KKR show batting show was led by Rana’s stellar effort when he promoted himself to No 3 and laid the foundation with a 38-ball 51 (6×4, 1×6).

On a wicket where the odd ball was gripping and batters struggled to find their timings, Rana stitched a crucial fifty-plus stand with Venkatesh Iyer (11) before Andre Russell and Rinku Singh sealed the issue.

Needing 56 off 28 balls after Rana became Rahul Chahar’s second victim, Russell went ballistic against Sam Curran smoking him for three sixes in four balls in a 20-run over to change the equation in favour of KKR who needed six off the last over.

But death over specialist Arshdeep Singh who had six to defend took it down the wire with four off the first four balls. Arshedeep has often floundered of late failing to nail his yorkers.

There was more drama when Russell was run out in the penultimate ball as a calm-headed Rinku Singh (21 not out; 10b) once again came to KKR’s rescue sealing the win with a boundary off the last ball.

The duo of Russell and Rinku put together a match-winning 54 runs partnership from 26 balls.

Their second win in a row pushed KKR (-0.079) past Royal Challengers Bangalore (-0.209) to the top-five on net run rate as five teams are locked a mid-table rush for playoff with 10 points.

Chahar bowled a brilliant 10th over conceding just three runs to have them 76/2 at the halfway stage as the home side still had a lot of work to do with 104 needed from the back-10.

But Rana turned it around, taking charge on Livingstone when he hit the PBKS part-time spinner for two fours and a six in a row in a 16-run over.

It was still not a cakewalk with legspinner Rahul Chahar quietly doing his role in his tidy 4-0-23-2.

He not only broke the fifty-plus stand between Rana and Venkatesh Iyer but also dismissed the duo in space of nine runs to keep PBKS hopes alive.

Earlier, KKR Impact Player Jason Roy (38; 24b) and Rahmanullah Gurbaz (15; 12b) gave them a flying start when they cruised to 36 for no loss in four overs after they took Arshdeep Singh to cleaners in a 16-run over.

But the opening duo failed to convert their starts and got out in space of 16 deliveries when the match was evenly poised.

Nathan Ellis gave the breakthrough trapping Gurbaz LBW with a slower one, before Roy became the victim of Brar after he failed to clear deep midwicket.

On a day Sunil Narine (4-0-29-0) was decent but went wicketless yet again, Chakravarthy relished the slow nature of the track where the odd ball was gripping to return with excellent figures of 4-0-26-3 after PBKS opted to bat.

It would have been worse for PBKS but the duo of Shahrukh Khan (21 not out; 8b) and Harpreet Brar (17 not out; 9b) brilliantly stepped it up in the last two overs that yielded 36 runs in a 40-run unbroken stand that came off just 16 balls.

Fresh from his last over heroics when he defended nine runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chakravarthy removed the Punjab’s in-form duo of Liam Livingstone and Jitesh Sharma that seemed to have broken their back in the middle overs.

Livingstone was looking at his destructive best, smashing Andre Russell for three fours in the fifth over.

Looking dangerous in his nine-ball 15, Livingstone was squared up by a perfect fast leg-break from Chakravarthy to be trapped plumb on his back foot.

With Harshit Rana (3-0-33-2) grabbing two inside the powerplay, KKR had a perfect start reducing PBKS to 58/3.
Skipper Shikhar Dhawan (57; 47b) anchored the show in a Virat Kohli-like innings the other day against Delhi Capitals but the lefthander could never take off and was dismissed by KKR skipper Nitish Rana.

Dhawan put together 53 runs partnership with Jitesh Sharma (21).

Rana smartly bowled Chakravarthy once inside the powerplay and then in the 8th, 13th and 17th over as he finished his quota, cleaning up Rishi Dhawan with a wrong one.

Rishi (19; 11b) had his intention clear smashing Chakravarthy for a six in the first ball, but the KKR spinner had the last laugh.

On an Eden wicket that looked on the drier side from the outside, seamer Rana gave KKR a perfect start, striking twice in two overs after Prabhsimran teed off in style with three boundaries off Arora in the first over.

Gurbaz took Prabhsimran’s catch on second attempt and in his next over Rana had comeback man Bhanuka Rajapaksa for a three-ball duck.

Things however still tilted in favour of PBKS as in-form Liam Livingstone counter-attacked Andre Russell with three back-to-back fours in a 19-run over.

PBKS looked on course with 51/2 after five overs, when Chakravarthy trapped Livingstone plumb on his back foot in a crucial turnaround for KKR.

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