KOLKATA: Sunday is when the City of Joy usually tends to catch up on its share of shut-eye. There are no blood-pressure-increasing bouts of vehicle manoeuvring in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and definitely, no jostling and strafing while hurriedly making your way on sidewalks.
The vicinity of the Eden Gardens, though, was wide awake. Undeterred by the claustrophobia-inducing mass of human bodies and sweltering weather, fans filled each of the 66,349-odd seats in the stadium. Shrieks of ‘Ami KKR’ and ‘RCB, RCB’ punctuated the general buzzing of the venue’s audience every now and then.
Even when the covers were taken off — a spell of rain delayed proceedings by half-an-hour — the ground, each retreating wave of white tarpaulin sent the crowd into a tizzy. It was a face-off between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders, after all, and expectations were rife indeed. And, the clash lived up to them, and how.
Though a man from West Indies who wields a bat the size of a newborn was in demand, Virat Kohli’s decision to field first after winning the toss thrust another man from the same country into the spotlight: Sunil Narine.
It was yet another field day for Kolkata’s new-found kamikaze with the willow. Having made shortwork of the Gujarat Lions a couple of days ago, the Trinidadian was at it again against the Chinnaswamy Men. His tonking of Samuel Badree and Sreenath Aravind helped the home team reach 39/0 in just three overs.
But, Mills started Kolkata’s slide in the next, inveigling skipper Gautam Gambhir for 14. Narine fell on his own sword a couple of overs later to Stuart Binny, and Badree trapped Robin Uthappa plumb in the very next. Smelling blood, Kohli brought Yuzvendra Chahal into play, and the slide transformed into a tumble. The leg-spinner broke Kolkata’s back and the home team folded up for a meek 131.
But, what’s the point of having such an atmosphere if the game culminates in a lopsided manner? That’s what the cricketing gods and Nathan Coulter-Nile must have told themselves as the latter ran in to deliver Kolkata’s first over. Three balls later, it was even-stevens, as Manish Pandey snaffled a Kohli edge to hand the Bangalore skipper his third golden duck in the event; an occurrence after which the team has never recorded a win.
Extracting lateral movement at a blistering pace, and aided by a fiery Umesh Yadav, Bangalore were pinned to the mat by Coulter-Nile, as he ensured that de Villiers and Kedhar Jadhav made the agonising walk back to the dugout for 8 and 9, respectively.
With Chris Gayle being muzzled by the two’s accuracy, Bangalore were teetering at 39/4 after the powerplay. It was Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme’s turn to add to their wickets column, which they did. The two ran through the remaining six names on RCB’s squad in just 22 balls, as all eleven ended the day in single digits.
Coulter-Nile, Woakes and De Grandhomme finished with three-wicket hauls as the pace quartet obliterated Bangalore for 49, the lowest total in IPL history. Even after burning its midnight oil, Eden Gardens was a happy place in the end.
Kolkata 131 in 19.3 overs (Narine 34, Mills 2/31, Negi 2/15, Chahal 3/16) bt Bangalore 49 in 9.4 overs (Coulter-Nile 3/21, Woakes 3/6, De Grandhomme 3/4).