Nair, Billings fifties lead Daredevils to big win

Kolkata Knight Riders player Robin Uthappa plays a shot during match 24 of the Vivo Indian Premier League ( IPL ) 2016 between the Mumbai Indians and the Kolkata Knight Riders held at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on the 28th April 2016 Photo by Vipin Pawar / IPL/ SPORTZPICS

Half-centuries from Karun Nair and Sam Billings steered Delhi Daredevils past a poor start and a 11-ball 34 from Carlos Brathwaite provided the late thrust that lifted them to 186. Daredevils defended it with regular strikes that destabilised a Kolkata Knight Riders line-up of considerable depth, eventually bowling them out with nine balls still left to play. Robin Uthappa held the chase together with a 52-ball 72, but wickets kept falling around him – Zaheer Khan did the early damage, while Brathwaite punctured Knight Riders’ momentum with three wickets in the middle overs.

It was still anyone’s game even with Knight Riders five down and requiring two runs a ball, with Andre Russell joining Uthappa at the crease. They were keeping up with the asking rate, adding 44 at quicker than 12-and-a-half an over, when Amit Mishra made the game’s decisive strike, clutching onto of a fierce straight hit from Russell in his follow-through with his eyes off the ball. It left Knight Riders needing 36 off the last three overs, and their lower order crumbled, their last five wickets falling in the space of 10 balls.

Knight Riders sent Daredevils in and removed both their openers in the first over. Shreyas Iyer played across the line to Andre Russell and fell for his third duck of the season, and Quinton de Kock top-edged a pull, looking to fetch a shoulder-high ball from outside off stump.

The loss of Sanju Samson in the fifth over meant Daredevils ended the Powerplay 37 for 3. Nair, though, was already on his way, having capitalised on leg-side-ish bowling from the Knight Riders seamers to pick up three fours with flicks and glances. He reverse-swept the first ball of the post-Powerplay period, delivered by Sunil Narine, for another four.

With Billings busy at the other end – he did not face a single dot between the fourth and 27th balls of his innings – Daredevils’ run rate never flagged despite the early wickets. Billings biffed Piyush Chawla for two fours in a 15-run 12th over, and Nair swept and reverse-swept Narine for three fours in the 15th, moving past 50 in the process.

Both batsmen hit a six each in the next two overs, and though Nair and Morris fell in the space of three balls, there was no let-up, as Brathwaite glanced and dabbed the first two balls he faced to the boundary behind the wicket. With Billings and Brathwaite hitting four more sixes between the 18th and 20th overs, Daredevils picked up a total of 66 runs from their last five.

Daredevils had picked four seamers, and the reason became clear as the match wore on, with bounce and a bit of seam movement available to the new-ball bowlers. The bounce accounted for Gautam Gambhir, who closed his bat face too early while looking to work Zaheer into the leg side, and Piyush Chawla – possibly promoted simply for his left-handedness – was lbw playing a similar shot. Knight Riders ended the Powerplay 43 for 2.

Knight Riders remained in sight of their target when Brathwaite conceded 22 in a 10th over full of no-balls, but he dismissed Yusuf Pathan and Suryakumar Yadav either side of it to leave them walking a wickets-in-hand tightrope. When R Sathish picked out deep square leg in Brathwaite’s final over, it came down to Uthappa and Russell.

The dismissals at the other end had contributed to Uthappa cutting off most of the risk from his batting. After four fours in his first 24 balls, most of which was during the Powerplay, he went 19 balls without a boundary. But he changed gear as soon as Russell joined him, going after Mishra’s legspin.

Uthappa had hit Mishra for a six and a four in the 15th over, and with Russell also at the crease, it seemed a gamble when Zaheer tossed the ball to the legspinner to bowl the 17th, with Knight Riders needing 51 from 24. Uthappa and Russell took 15 off the first five balls of the over, and Russell almost smacked Mishra flush on the face off the last ball. Somehow, his hands shot up, plucked the ball out of the air, and changed the course of the game.