It was one such day for the Kings XI Punjab. They tried everything at the batsman, only to return second best most of the times. As has been the norm, Ashwin started with two men patrolling the boundary at deep square leg and deep mid-wicket. If the idea was to force Narine into playing across the line, he ended up offering a free passage on the off-side. Narine should have been dismissed on 7, only for Mujeeb ur Rahman to drop a tough return catch. That not only turned out to be Mujeeb’s last act with the ball for a while as he walked off with an injured finger, but it also freed Narine off his shackles.
Ashwin was greeted with a six, followed by a four and the carnage had well and truly begun. Chris Lynn fell shortly after, but there was no stopping Narine. The Knight Riders have never stopped this man, anything he brings to the table in terms of runs is always viewed as a bonus, and his dismissal doesn’t hurt them one bit. When he gets going, it demoralizes the opponent to such an extent that they end up losing focus for the rest of the innings.
“We had dismissed him with spin in Kolkata early in the season, we didn’t execute our plans properly here, it’s a fact that he’s good against both pace and spin”, conceded Andrew Tye, as he spoke after the match. It happened to be one such day for KXIP. They leaked 59 runs in the batting powerplay, the second most runs made by a batting team against them this season. Narine had already got a start and it was time to make the most of it. Ashwin, who replaced Mujeeb, was clobbered, so was Axar Patel. The pitch didn’t matter anymore, neither did the size of the ground. It was turning out to be Narine’s day and he enjoyed every moment of it. His fifty came soon after – his third in Indian Premier League but ironically his slowest (off 26 balls).
“It’s tough to stop him once he gets going,” Tye said. “We tried our level best to reign him down, but it was a tough day for both set of bowlers,” he added, while joking that anyone could have gone for runs on that surface today. KXIP had another chance to dismiss Narine on 55. The batsmen had given up on a tight single, but so had the fielders who were sagging in the heat of Indore. Mohit Sharma had all the time and all the three stumps to aim at, he missed and Narine survived once again. He celebrated it by smashing Barinder Sran for 16 runs from the next five deliveries. At the end of 11 overs, Narine was on 71 and KKR had reached 123 for 1.
Narine had the hundred for the taking. A couple of years back, he was batting at number nine and was harassing the batsmen with his mix of mystery spin. The magic with the ball has eroded a bit, but his batting has reached never seen before heights. Could he cap off a wonderful day with a hundred? That moment never arrived as Tye finally found the right line and length to him – just that it came after the batsman had smashed 75. His knock had given KKR a comfortable cushion that would propel them to new heights. Andre Russell was promoted to number four and Dinesh Karthik himself came at five.
With the platform set, the finishers got into the act quickly. Russell launched a few into and over the stands during his knock of 31, Karthik invigorated his new-found status as a finisher as he blasted a 22-ball half-century, also his fastest in the history of the tournament. Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill made merry and Javon Searles started his IPL career with a blistering six. KKR finished with 245, their highest ever score in IPL – beating their 222 against RCB – on that famous first night of this glitzy tournament. Indore, with its short boundaries, flat pitches and lightening outfield, was once again making waves. Try telling that to the hapless KXIP bowlers.