Jos Buttler steals Sunil Narine's show in Eden battle of centuries as Royals upstage KKR | Crickit
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Jos Buttler steals Sunil Narine's show in Eden battle of centuries as Royals upstage KKR

By, Kolkata
Apr 17, 2024 07:55 AM IST

The KKR pinch-hitter struck a 56-ball 109 and took 2 wickets, but the RR opener’s 60-ball 107* sealed a league record chase

No one could have engineered this turnaround but Jos Buttler. To lift an innings from 121/6, when 46 runs were still left after Rovman Powell — the last specialist batter in an exceptionally deep Rajasthan Royals batting line-up — was almost impossible. The heat was sapping every ounce of energy Buttler had in him. But he still kept going, finding a new gear when all seemed lost, scoring 18 runs in the 18th over and 19 in the 19th to pull off a heist as Royals took down Kolkata Knight Riders’ 223 in a sensational chase, the highest in IPL.

Jos Buttler and Avesh Khan celebrate with teammates after Rajasthan won the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match against Kolkata Knight Riders,(PTI)
Jos Buttler and Avesh Khan celebrate with teammates after Rajasthan won the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match against Kolkata Knight Riders,(PTI)

A second century this season for Buttler still doesn’t give the right context to his innings. No other Royals batter reached even 40 in this innings. By the time Buttler had reached the final overs, he was struggling to run as wickets kept falling around him. But he kept clearing his front leg, teeing off for towering sixes till the required run rate had dropped from 16 to just nine off the last six balls. He sealed a 60-ball 107 with a last-ball single to seal the victory at Eden Gardens.

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“It’s a funny game at the end of the day,” said KKR captain Shreyas Iyer after the defeat. “He (Buttler) was striking the ball cleanly and timing them so well, have to take it on the chin and move on. I mean, at this point of time you see that you bowl your best deliveries, a little bit hit or miss and you are sent out of the ground, it’s good that it happened now rather than it happening in the later stages of the tournament, good learning for us.”

No one could have seen a hundred coming for Sunil Narine as well, even though he had already hammered a 22-ball 47 against Royal Challengers Bangalore and a 39-ball 85 against Delhi Capitals this season. They still didn’t build up the anticipation that Narine could actually go the distance, primarily because pinch-hitters aren’t expected to make it that far. But this is where possibly everyone barring Gautam Gambhir read Narine wrong.

Giving a clean striker of the ball the licence to break loose is something, nudging him to think of himself as a proper opening batter is something else. Now, he is the third highest scorer of this IPL. “I would have taken it as a joke because I haven't opened in such a long time or did much with the bat in the years past,” said Narine after entertaining Eden with a 56-ball 109. “With GG (Gambhir) coming back, he gave me the confidence and his assurance that I'll open the batting.”

Result of that plucky call was a proper carnage. On a two-paced pitch, the best bowling attack of this IPL conceded 12.87 runs per over, the highest in an IPL innings for Royals with at least five overs of spin. Avesh Khan and Trent Boult were the only bowlers to concede less than 10 an over, Kuldeep Sen averaged 11.5, Ravichandran Ashwin 12.25 and Yuzvendra Chahal 13.5 in his most expensive — 4-0-54-1 — IPL spell ever. Angkrish Raghuvanshi teased with an 18-ball 30, Rinku Singh again chipped in with a blistering nine-ball 20. But holding ground, climbing into the Royals bowling attack and tearing into the most formidable spin duo in this IPL was Narine with an innings that was predictable yet effective.

The brief to Narine was simple. “The job is just to go out there and try to give a good start,” he said. “Whatever the situation is, still keep going because if you try to face dot balls in the powerplay, it could hurt you in the backend. So just go there and try to give your team a good start.” Not allowing Narine to swing his arms is key to curtailing the slogs that are such an inherent feature of his batting. But with Royals erring repeatedly, Narine kept swinging, taking his chances.

Not often does Ashwin concede 49 runs in four overs. More abnormal is Chahal leaking more than 13 per over, looking all over the place in his final over when Narine got rid of his helmet. First ball was a huge slog sweep but he didn’t connect. Andre Russell calmly dabbed the next ball for a single. Third ball, Narine skipped down the pitch to take the leg-break on the full and clobber it for six. Next ball, Narine rocked back and whacked it straight over the bowler for four. A wide only stalled for a ball a massive six and another four as Chahal leaked 23 runs in that over to give KKR’s score a massive boost.

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