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Russell trumps Klaasen in last-ball win for KKR

South African’s 29-ball 63 not enough to pip Russell’s 25-ball 64

Till 2023, Andre Russell had faced an average of just over 11 balls every batting innings in IPL. Saturday too almost conformed to that law of averages when off the 11th ball of his innings, Russell went for a half-hearted loft off Mayank Markande. Dashing in from long-on, Aiden Markram dived to scoop up what looked like a scintillating catch to the naked eye but the third umpire wasn’t sure. That triggered the ‘Dre Russ’ show.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ Sunil Narine, centre, Andre Russell, left, celebrates the dismissal of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Rahul Tripathi.(AP)

It isn’t as if Russell hadn’t played his part by then. Twenty off 11 balls, 18 of them coming in three hits off Markande in the same over — Russell is known to revel in playing exactly this kind of innings. But then there is the other type of ‘Russell innings’, the rarer sort that more than justifies his ₹12 crore price tag, where Russell takes T20 batting to a different level, perfecting his golf swing with ridiculous precision and sending the scoreboard and the stadium into a frenzy.

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The next 14 balls after that reprieve went for 6, 4, 1, 1, 6, 1, 4, 1, 6, 2, 6, 4, 1, 1, fetching 44 runs out of 67 scored in the last four overs, pulling KKR from 119/6 to 208/7 and almost underplaying the stellar role of Phil Salt’s fifty on debut in the salvation job. This had shades of the carnage Russell had unleashed against Kings XI Punjab in 2019, when on getting a life after Mohammed Shami had flattened his stumps with a yorker, he hammered five sixes and three fours in the next 11 balls to score a 17-ball 48.

As long as Mayank Agarwal and Abhishek Sharma were together, Sunrisers Hyderabad were looking comfortable chasing 208. KKR’s fielding was largely sloppy, and Salt had made a mess of an easy catch off Sharma to first slip in the third over by poking his hand at it. Once Agarwal holed out to Rinku Singh at deep backward square-leg though, KKR started finding their feet again. Russell came in to bowl and soon he removed Sharma, forcing a top edge with a bouncer.

It seemed like Sunrisers had probably repeated last year’s error by leaving too much for Heinrich Klaasen at the backend. By getting Sunil Narine to complete his quota —he returned 4-0-19-1 — within the 13th over, KKR cranked up the pressure and cracks started appearing quickly. Rahul Tripathi was caught attempting the sweep off Narine and Abdul Samad was caught by Venkatesh Iyer at deep midwicket before Klaasen came to the party, hammering 26 runs in the penultimate over bowled by Mitchell Starc and reaching his fifty in just 25 balls, bringing the equation to 13 needed off the last six balls.

Klaasen kicked off that over by muscling Harshit Rana over fine-leg for six before Rana got Shahbaz Ahmed to find Shreyas Iyer at long-on. Marco Jansen took a single to give the strike back to Klaasen but this time he fell to a brilliant catch by Suyash Sharma who had to turn around from short third man and run back at least 10 yards.

Last-ball victories aren’t unusual in IPL but this has come twice against the run of play for KKR, considering the situation they were in earlier while batting. Narine had opened with Salt but lasted only four balls. And then Shreyas Iyer, playing his first match after missing the entire season in 2023, chipped T Natarajan to Pat Cummins, who plucked it out of thin air on the edge of the circle. That two-wicket over —Natarajan had also accounted for Venkatesh Iyer two balls earlier — almost dialed back time to when KKR were used to these top-order collapses. Luckily for KKR though, Russell — in the company of Rinku Singh — chose the right time to shine to give them enough to eke out a last-ball thriller.


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