Kolkata Knight Riders 173 for 5 (Lynn 55, Uthappa 45) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 172 for 9 (Dhawan 50, Williamson 36, Krishna 4-30) by five wickets
Body language isn't as noteworthy in cricket as it is in other sports, like tennis. But Kolkata Knight Riders' body language in the last three games of this season has been worth noticing because it aggressively manifested into determination, and subsequently performance. KKR produced another such spirited display against Sunrisers Hyderabad, beating them by five wickets to book their berth in the playoffs. Three teams - Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab - vie for the only remaining spot going into the final day of regular season.
During their previous game, against Rajasthan Royals, captain Dinesh Karthik admonished any fault in the field. Chris Lynn strongly suggested he wanted to finish off their chase on his own in that game. And Sunil Narine, often the most stoic player on the field, was distraught after he holed out against Sunrisers despite contributing with a 10-ball 29 that put KKR well on course for the playoffs. It was body language that demonstrated not only their need to win, but their will too.
Prasidh Krishna claimed 4 for 30 to help KKR restrict Sunrisers to 172 after a blazing start by Shikhar Dhawan, Sreevats Goswami and Kane Williamson. Again, Lynn anchored the chase with a 43-ball 55. With the help of cameos from Narine, Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik, KKR never fell behind the chase, consigning Sunrisers to their third straight defeat.
Sunrisers were on the receiving end of a terrific batting performance from Royal Challengers Bangalore in their previous game. When RCB made a strong start, they didn't back down thereafter, even if wickets caused by their risky approach threatened to stall their momentum.
Against KKR, Sunrisers started in similar fashion and managed to sustain that tempo, albeit in entirely different batting conditions from the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Shreevats Goswami, who opened because Alex Hales was left out, and Dhawan capitalised on a wayward Powerplay from KKR to score 60 in the period, including a 20-run over from Andre Russell.
Goswami picked out long-on off Kuldeep Yadav for 35, but Williamson, in sensational form, didn't let the scoring rate dip. His first ball was a delectable pull through square leg, the only four of his innings. He also struck three sixes: two were whipped over midwicket and one a lap-scoop over fine leg, displaying his ever-improving T20 range.
By the time Williamson was dismissed in the 13th over, Sunrisers were coasting at 127. Then, like the sudden absence of music at a party, Sunrisers just stopped enjoying the night and their batting turned laborious.
Just four fours and a six were struck in the rest of the innings as Sunrisers huffed and puffed to 172 for 9. Four wickets, including a run-out, fell in the final over, bowled by Krishna. With just 45 runs in the last 43 balls, Sunrisers didn't have enough. Yet, they did have their highest score of the season.
KKR's batting roles
KKR's batsmen have found their own successful methods of pacing an innings. Narine usually attacks from the outset. Uthappa has continued to stay aggressive at No. 3. Lynn bats around them, while Karthik is tasked with finishing off games.
Saturday night was no different. Narine struck four fours and two sixes as KKR pummeled 60 runs in the first five overs. The rest of the innings was all about staying ahead of the chase. Lynn was more circumspect, consuming 43 balls for his 55.
Uthappa was proficient with cross-batted strokes again, but was caught via a top-edge for 45. By also keeping Rashid Khan wicketless, KKR ensured they enjoyed their night, music and all.