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Synopsis: Sunil Narine swings for the hills and finds great returns as Kolkata Knight Riders pile on second-highest IPL total ever, as lacklustre Delhi Capitals succumb to defeat by a triple-figure margin.

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Sunil Narine and Andre Russell are not going to win two many points for batting aesthetics. Their methods are mostly agricultural, but when they come off – like they did against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday when Kolkata Knight Riders amassed 272/7– there’s not much a bowling attack can do. Narine relies on a sharp eye and a clean bat-swing, while Russell’s strength is brute power.

Narine’s batting can be described as slogging, and it is, but it’s educated slogging. Having been a great T20 bowler for a long time, he knows how a bowler thinks, especially when he is hit for a few boundaries. The two-bouncer-an-over rule was expected to make life difficult for his ilk, who plant their front foot down the pitch, knowing the general area where the ball is going to land, and swinging merrily.

But Narine, at least at Visakhapatnam on Wednesday, guessed the intention of the bowlers correctly. When they pitched short, he either swayed away from the line to swat them either square of the wicket or even straight, or cut or slash balls through the off-side. It helped that the DC bowlers were generous in offering width, and skipper Rishabh Pant didn’t feel confident enough to go for reviews when he should have. Twice Pant erred on the side of caution, erroneously, after catching what later turned out to be edges.

Khaleel Ahmed and Ishant Sharma were almost unplayable against Chennai Super Kings at the same venue on Sunday, but were just a bit off in their next outing. When they didn’t give width, Narine manufactured some of his own by clearing his front leg, making full use of the edge of his bat. Even when one hand came off the bat, the ball still sailed over the boundary. The DC bowlers tried to bowl away from his swing-arc, and as a result, when he did miss, the stumps were not hit. As many as 88 came in the Powerplay.

There was a time he was in the running to score the first century of the season, at more than two runs a ball, before he finally fell to a Mitchell Marsh short ball.

Russell uses his bat as a sledgehammer, standing deep in the crease to deal with the fuller-length delivery. One feels for the ball when the bat makes contact with it. Any fielder would think twice before getting in the way of a full-blooded hit. Even those that didn’t find the middle of the bat went the distance.

Young and talented

Angkrish Raghuvanshi was a star of the title-winning Indian side at the 2022 U-19 World Cup, and on Wednesday showed he could step up in the IPL cauldron. The class was evident from the first ball, when he nonchalantly pulled a short ball from speedster Anrich Nortje over short fine-leg. The next shot showed the 18-year-old was equally proficient on the off-side as he played a sublime back-foot punch past point. Raghuvanshi had the composure to find gaps when a bit of delicate touch was required, like when medium-pacer Sumit Kumar gave him width and he found the space between short-third and point inside the circle.

He showed he had plenty in the form of unorthodoxy and power as well. A reverse-slap over third man for six off Rasikh Salam had jaws dropping, while there were the usual hoicks that sailed over the legside. With the co-owner of the franchise watching from the stands, Raghuvanshi had all the incentive to impress after being given the responsibility of batting at No.3.

One has seen Rinku Singh doing it in the past, and his exploits last season have made him an India player, but the trick is to do it on a consistent basis. He has made a name as a finisher and did the job again with an 8-ball 26 at the death. Russell was at the other end, but Rinku was not going to just feed him the strike.

Almost all of Rinku’s runs on Wednesday came in the 19th over bowled by Nortje as the South African felt the full wrath of the left-hander’s bat. Altogether 25 came in that over and Rinku even had time to get out on the last ball. Three sixes – two over wide long-off and one over third man – proved Rinku has the capability to clear the rope whenever needed. When he doesn’t find the stands, he finds gaps in the field for fours.

Early settlement

Delhi Capitals had no option but to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of the gargantuan target and the match was over as a contest inside five overs when the home side, at least on paper, was reduced to 33/4. That they had to call upon the untested Abhishek Porel to come in as the Impact Player at No. 4 while chasing 273 showed the paucity of back-up resources at their disposal. Prtihvi Shaw and David Warner had got them off to a rollicking start against CSK, but that wasn’t to be the case here. KKR’s Vaibhav Arora, taking the new ball, accounted for Shaw and Porel while Mitchell Starc – who had had a forgettable couple of games as the IPL’s most expensive player ever – accounted for his compatriots Warner and Marsh.

The asking rate was always beyond their reach and even though Rishabh Pant and Tristan Stubbs scored half-centuries at rapid rates – the skipper doing so for the second game in a row – the endeavour was restricted to reducing the margin of defeat. As it is, that goal was also not achieved and it could come back to bite DC if they get within striking distance of a playoff spot.

For KKR though, a third straight win has them looking down at everyone else on the points table.

Brief scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 272/7 in 20 overs (Sunil Narine 85, Angkrish Raghuvanshi 54, Andre Russell 41; Nortje 3/59) beat Delhi Capitals 166 all out in 17.2 overs (Rishabh Pant 55, Tristan Stubbs 54; Vaibhav Arora 3/27, Varun Chakravarthy 3/33) by 106 runs

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