Narine, Gambhir combine for thrashing to hand Maxwell’s Kings XI Punjab first defeat
The result: Kings XI Punjab 9-170 (David Miller 28, Umesh Yadav 4-33) defeated by Kolkata Knight Riders 2-171 (Gautam Gambhir 72*, Varun Aaron 1-23) by eight wickets.
The match in a tweet: Maxwell’s captaincy suffers first blip as Narine and Gambhir blast Kings XI out of the water
The record: Kolkata’s stranglehold over the Kings XI Punjab continued tonight, extending their unbeaten run against Glenn Maxwell’s men to seven. Despite the away side entering the contest as the only unbeaten team, Gautam Gambhir and his charges put together a clinical performance that saw them leapfrog Punjab to take pole position on the table. The result continues a stretch going back to the 2013 edition of the IPL in which Kolkata remain unbeaten when chasing at Eden Gardens.
The masterstroke: With Aussie Chris Lynn going down in the second match, the Knight Riders needed someone to fill the void at the top of the order, with the hosts opting to promote West Indian Sunil Narine. It took the tweaker just three balls to reach the fence, and four balls more to go over it. Varun Aaron copped the full force of the nasty Narine innings, going for 16 from three balls before eventually removing the dangerous pinch-hitter. Gambhir highlighted Narine’s efforts in the KFC Big Bash League – where he opened the batting three times for the Melbourne Renegades – as the main reason he promoted the leg-spinning West Indian.
Quick Single: Kolkata upbeat about Lynn injury
The consistency: Gambhir’s unbeaten 72 wasn’t enough to earn him player of the match – that honour going to Narine – but his knock at the top of the order cannot be understated. Much like his first knock of IPL 10, this innings was calculated and calming for Kolkata, reaching the boundary 11 times but not once going over it. His classy stroke play, particularly through the off side, was just another instance of the Kolkata captain standing up when it mattered, and he joined David Warner atop the list of all-time IPL half-century scorers with 33, with only five of those coming with Gambhir not captain. Two fifties this year for the left-hander have resulted in two wins for his side, while he's also now the current hold of the Orange Cap for most runs.
The ball: Colin de Grandhomme may want his time again, leaking 12 runs from one legal delivery against South African David Miller. The Kolkata allrounder overstepped the mark and offered up a free-hit to the free-wheeling Miller, subsequently dispatched over the cover boundary. But de Granhomme overstepped again, meaning the following delivery was also a free-hit, Miller top-edging the ball over the wicketkeeper’s head for a boundary and a successful over for the Kings XI Punjab.
The Aussie Pack: Glenn Maxwell suffered his first loss as captain, with Kings now dropping two places down the table after two wins from two to kick off their campaign. Maxwell looked likely to scorch the Knight Riders bowlers, taking to Piyush Chawla for two daisy-cutting boundaries and a six. But after trying to force a ball through the off-side, he fell to Yadav for 25 from 14 deliveries. Marcus Stoinis was the only other Aussie to feature, with the Kings XI allrounder elevated to No.3 for just the third time in his T20 career. He started positively with a boundary, but chopped Sunil Narine on for nine when the away side needed someone to stand up. Both Australians suffered the full force of the Gambhir-Narine onslaught, giving up 32 runs from 15 balls combined.
The fallout: A top-of-the-table clash awaits Gambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday, with David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad looking to avoid consecutive losses and take top spot on the ladder, whilst the Kings XI Punjab could reclaim their previous position with a heavy enough victory over the Delhi Daredevils on Sunday morning.