What’s the story?
Kolkata Knight Riders caught Kings XI Punjab totally off-guard on Thursday evening, promoting spinner Sunil Narine to open the batting, and captain Gautam Gambhir said the successful move could become permanent.
“If it keeps working, obviously yes as it just lengthens our batting order as well,” said Gambhir to the Indian Express. The West Indian smacked an 18-ball 37, which totally released the pressure as KKR cruised to the required 171.
Gambhir continued, “It just gives him the freedom to go out there and go as hard as he can because as I just mentioned he has got 9 to 10 people to follow.”
Kolkata looked to have found their ultimate opening combination when Gambhir and Chris Lynn set an IPL record with a partnership of 184 in their first game against Gujarat Lions. But after Lynn injured his shoulder, the Knight Riders were after a quick solution at the top.
But wins on the pitch solve a lot of problems, and Narine was also quick to compliment his skipper’s impressive form.
“Every time you come here you see Gambhir top run-scorers for KKR and even close to the Orange cap so watching him bat always gives you confidence and makes the wicket as it is not doing much. I think it’s a good team spirit, team effort and hopefully, we continue winning games,” said Narine.
The heart of the matter…
Narine showcased all of his all-round ability against Punjab, first tightening the screw by conceding just 19 runs from his four overs, and taking a wicket, before cutting loose with the blade.
Gambhir hit an effortless unbeaten 72, featuring 11 boundaries, as he guided KKR to victory, alongside Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, who struck 26 and 25 respectively.
Prior to that, Kings XI’s innings never hit top gear, with five batsmen surpassing 20, yet none reaching 30. However, thanks to 16 extras from Kolkata’s bowlers, they still tallied up 170 – not that it was anywhere near enough.
Kolkata are next in action on Saturday afternoon, hosting the Sunrisers Hyderabad at Eden Gardens – both have won two of their three games so far. Meanwhile, Kings XI will hope to bounce back from their first loss of IPL 2017 on later that evening, when they visit the Feroz Shah Kotla to take on the Delhi Daredevils.
Promoting Narine to open was T20 innovation at its best. Knight Riders had been left in a difficult spot following Lynn’s shoulder injury and were in need of force at the top to work with Gambhir.
It would be naïve to think Narine could perform such a job too often. But even if he comes off like this just one in three times, KKR would get game-changing starts to set big scores or chase down high totals at least semi-regularly, without weakening their batting line-up.