Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir came back to form with an attacking 50 © IANS
Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir came back to form with an attacking 50 © IANS

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) made hard work of what looked like an easy chase against Lahore Lions after a solid opening stand. There were many interesting aspects in the match. Abhijit Banare presents the key highlights of the Champions League T20 2014 (CLT20) match.

The blazing ‘Shehzada’: The two players who are usually tagged with the term ‘outrageously talented’ in Pakistan are Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal. They throw their wicket away when you want them in the middle the most, and then there are times when you are least interested and they woo you with their quick feet movement and ability to smash even the good balls out of the park. Ahmed Shehzad was in his groove thrashing the bowlers from the onset.

Kuldeep Yadav: There are very few things more exciting than watching a young talent performing to his potential on debut. There was no question that this 19-year-old was different. Let alone India, the last successful Chinaman bowler in world cricket — Brad Hogg — is well past his 40s. And when you see a chubby short bowler with a short run-up leaving some of the senior batsmen hopping, there’s a talent to watch out for. Yadav should have had Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad as well, along with Mohammad Hafeez had the ‘keeper and sheer bad luck not played a trick on the youngster. Figures of 4-0-21-1 made for an impressive debut from Kuldeep, who replaced Umesh Yadav.

Sunil Narine’s usual spell: For the second match in a row, he has conceded less than 10 runs in his four over spell. When you look at the disdain with which bowlers are treated in the T20 format, The consistency with which Narine achieves these figures shows why he deserves to be called a T20 legend. It was expected to see some lesser-known faces in the Lahore set-up looking more like helpless tail-enders facing Curtly Ambrose. His figures: 4-1-9-3.

Stat: Narine and Kuldeep together bowled 30 dot balls. In other words, Lahore scored 151 in 15 overs!

91-2 to 103 for six: Lahore continued to follow the path of inconsistency set by their national team. Coupled with the pressure created from Kuldeep and Narine, the Lahore batting caved in. It was déjà vu as the departure of their best batsmen led to the middle-order failing to hold on, and it was again left to Umar Akmal to do the job.

Akmal-Riaz partnership: Wahab Riaz can go back to his hotel feeling proud that he denied Narine a hat-trick. Once he scampered through for a single off the last ball of Narine’s quota, it was up to Akmal to see Lahore till the end. One can just hope that Akmal’s stunning shots come off, and this time they did. Akmal scored 40 off 24, and shared a partnership of 48 in 24 balls leaving KKR 152 to chase.

Solid start to chase: Gautam Gambhir and his regular opening partner Robin Uthappa made light work of a formidable target. Lahore had the bowlers to defend 151. Aizaz Cheema in particular had picked up a couple of wickets in each of the three qualifier matches. But credit should go to the trusted pair of Gambhir and Uthappa for denying any chance whatsoever. There were some edges and sharp opportunities, but fielding doesn’t feature in Lahore’s top-two skills anyway. The pair didn’t smash the bowlers, but with deft touches they found the gaps, dispatching loose deliveries with calm heads en route to the century partnership.

Mediocre fielding: Both teams produced a very ordinary performance in the field. Young Kuldeep could’ve had three wickets in his debut match, but sloppy wicketkeeping robbed him of a memorable debut. Well, Lahore too continued their habit of displaying below-par show allowing the ball to slip between the legs, and missed out on sharp catching chances.

Planned attack: Both Gambhir and Uthappa are aggressive players, but they didn’t launch an onslaught right away. Uthappa was patient at the start without getting much strike. Gambhir did most of the scoring. And once the powerplay was behind them, Uthappa feasted on the spinners. He had the option of lofting anywhere in the arc from cover to midwicket. The two cruised along to their respective half-centuries before Uthappa was bowled.

Mini-collapse: KKR were never going to be in trouble. Moreover, Lahore didn’t have any Narine in their team to suddenly halt a free-flowing innings. But Gambhir was bowled trying to hit his way out, and Manvinder Bisla was dismissed leg-before wicket, which raised the hopes of Lahore. The tame departure of Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate combined with a few dot balls only made the scorecard look a little more dramatic. KKR had a long batting line-up and they could never come under pressure. But then, as they showed against Rajasthan Royals during the Indian Premier League 2014, KKR des have a history of messing up easy chases.

Last over: Five needed. Asif Raza marks his bowling run-up and jogs down a few yards to warm-up. First ball is in the slot outside off and Russell lofted straight in to the hands of the deep cover fielder. But common sense prevailed as Suryakumar Yadav picked a couple and followed with a boundary to close it off.

11th consecutive win for Kolkata Knight Riders. They took it closer than they needed, but a win is a win, they’ll get on with it. Meanwhile, Lahore will be wondering, another wicket a could things have been different?

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)