Australia’s David Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his Indian Premier League comeback yesterday but his knock went in vain as Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Warner, who along with compatriot Steve Smith returns to the Twenty20 tournament after missing the previous edition due to a ball-tampering controversy, steered Sunrisers to 181 for three after being put into bat.
His efforts though were not enough, with Andre Russell hitting an unbeaten 49 off 19 balls as the Knight Riders won by six wickets with two balls to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
A pause for a floodlight failure in the 16th over re-charged Knight Riders’ chase as Russell put together an unbeaten 65-run stand with Shubman Gill, who hit 18 runs including the winning six. Russell struck four fours and four sixes.
Earlier Warner stood out during a 118-run opening stand with England’s Jonny Bairstow, who made 39, to lay the platform for their big total. “It is good to get out there and contribute. It looked a nice wicket to bat on but it slowed down a bit which made us reassess after six overs,” Warner said after his knock. The Australian admitted some anxiety before his big return to IPL - and an unusual solution.
“I was a bit nervous in the dressing room and kept drinking pickle juice,” he said.
Opener Warner survived a reprieve on 38 after Knight Riders captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their only IPL title in 2016, made the most of the spill and raced to his 37th IPL fifty with a six off Russell to signal his aggressive intent. Bairstow was bowled by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla but Warner took the attack to the opposition, hitting nine fours and three sixes during his blitz. Warner, who recently recovered from an elbow injury he picked in the Bangladesh Premier League, finally fell to Russell after driving the ball to cover.
Warner said his elbow “wasn’t all too bad” after doing a lot of work with his trainer back home.
Year-long bans from state and international cricket for Warner and Smith end on March 28 but the duo are keen to get among the runs in the IPL, ahead of the 50-over World Cup starting in May. The suspension did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the disgraced duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to avoid controversy.
The pair were banned for cheating in a Cape Town Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban has already finished.
“We just couldn’t finish well in the last three overs. That happens in T20 cricket. Russell played a great knock. He took the game away from us. He played all the shots, the bowlers did not bowl bad deliveries, but he just smashed all of them,” said Rashid, who took the wicket of Rana after a 12-minute power failure to push Sunrisers closer to victory.
Rashid, who hit a 10-ball 34 last year to help Sunrisers beat KKR in the second qualifier and qualify for the final, added they would also look to such a player lower down the order.
“Russell, the way he played, changed the game. It’s crucial when the lower order gives you 30-35 runs in 10-11 balls that takes the score from 150 to 180 and from 180 to 210. That is really important. We will have that in mind. To have someone who can do that for us,” he said.
Rana, meanwhile, said he would fail to describe in words how brilliant Russell was. “I cannot describe his batting in words. It was unbelievable”.
“In 18 balls we needed 53 runs and we won the match with two balls to spare. That’s how capable he is. The game plan was whatever we needed, we would leave it to Russell and that worked.”
Rana chose not to review after being trapped by Rashid and he said he did not go for it as Russell was batting in full flow at the other end. “I decided not to take the DRS because I wanted to keep the review for Russell. This win was important for us especially at the start,” he said.
Kolkata Knight Riders 183/4 in 19.4 overs (Nitish Rana 68, Andre Russell 49 not out; Rashid Khan 1/26) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 181/3 in 20 overs (David Warner 85, Vijay Shankar 40; Andre Russell 2/32) by 6 wickets.
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