Kolkata Knight Riders breathe after a dramatic last-ball triumph against Sunrisers Hyderabad

KKR pull off a victory in a nail-biter contest against SRH in the reverse fixture

Kolkata Knight Riders thrust back with a victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad as calm-headed Varun Chakravarthy defend nine runs off the final over on Thursday evening at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.

Earlier, Nitish Rana, the captain of KKR won the toss and elected to bat first. Having already used six sets of opening pairs, the Knight Riders had opted for another new combination in the form of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Jason Roy.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Marco Jansen set off with the new ball for the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the former was on the receiving end of two boundaries in the initial over of the contest. Meanwhile, Gurbaz charged down for a heave down the ground right in the first ball from Jansen and was undone by some extra bounce. 

The Afghan wicket-keeper departed for a golden duck and Venkatesh Iyer, one of the centurions of IPL 2023, followed him in a space of five balls. On both occasions, it was Jansen with the prized scalps. After a few glamorous strokes, Jason Roy fell to Kartik Tyagi who was playing the first game of this season. The scoreboard was 35-3 after 4.4 overs with SRH clearly dominating the powerplay. 

In the immediate aftermath, skipper Nitish Rana and the reliable Rinku Singh forged a 61-run partnership for the fourth wicket and stabilized the ship. In an effort to raise the ante, the KKR leader was dismissed by the SRH skipper who scurried down a long way beyond mid-on to grasp a spectacular catch and reward himself with a big breakthrough. 

Andre Russell was sent at no. 6 and whacked a couple of sixes and a four to increase the net run rate. Unfortunately, he didn’t last long as Mayank Markande’s wittiness got the better of Calypso Power who ended up with 24 runs off 15 balls. Rinku was grafting the innings from one end with 46 off 35 balls with occasional boundaries now and then. He stayed till the last over as wickets fell from the other end like nine pins.

Just at the cue end of the innings, Anukul Roy was subbed in for Roy. He clubbed a few boundaries but an exceptional final over from T Natarajan restricted KKR to 171 at the end of the innings. For the Orange Army, Natarajan and Jansen each claimed two wickets while the others scalped a solitary piece.

Arriving for the chase, SRH got a brisk start from openers – Abhishek Sharma and Mayank Agarwal as two inexperienced bowlers in Harshit Rana and Vaibhav Arora operated with the ball in hand. After a few boundaries here and there, Agarwal edged one behind the stumps to Gurbaz off the bowling of Harshit. Abhishek followed him to the pavilion in quick succession as Shardul Thakur struck in his first over.

As anticipated, Rahul Tripathi was the impact substitute for the Orange Army replacing Natarajan. The former KKR batter immediately counter-attacked Russell in the sixth over and Tripathi boosted fourteen runs off the bat in the first three balls but was cleared off by his former teammate in the following delivery. 

Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen powered SRH from a difficult situation.

Harry Brook was sent in next and departed for a duck, leaving the onus of rebuilding the castle on two Proteas – Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram.

The Sunrisers were cut down to 54-4 after 6.2 overs. Just when one would’ve stepped on the back foot, Klaasen seem to arrive from a different planet. He pressed on the accelerator and took the opposition bowlers for a tour around the park. Aiden Markram kept the scoreboard ticking with excellent running between the wickets and helped in tying up a 70-run stand for the fifth wicket. 

It was Shardul Thakur, the man with the golden arm who fragmented the dangerous partnership as the cutter on a length delivery does the trick to outwit the Proteas gloveman. Abdul Samad stepped in and narrowed down the chase but Markram failed to close the match for his side falling prey to Vaibhav Arora.

The match swung like a pendulum and Arora was asked to bowl the all-important penultimate over for KKR. The Himachal Pradesh-based cricketer dished out a no-ball and conceded two fours in the over curtailing the equation to 9 runs off 6 balls.

Skipper, Rana backed his instinct and chose to go with spin in the form of Varun Chakravarthy over seam options in Thakur and Russell. The wily spinner mixed some seam-ups along with leg breaks, trapped Abdul Samad, and helped KKR taste the sweet victory by a margin of five runs.

The Sunrisers will be flying off to Jaipur to face Rajasthan Royals in a must-win encounter on Sunday while the Kolkata-based franchise will get a breather before welcoming the Punjab Kings at the iconic Eden Gardens on Monday.