KOLKATA: Sunil Narine's blistering half-century made all the difference and paved the way for Kolkata Knight Riders' winning start in the Indian Premier League here, Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Mandeep Singh said.
Narine, who had scored IPL's fastest fifty last season against the same opposition, smashed a whirlwind 50 from 19 balls to make light of the 177-run target last night.
Narine completed the milestone in 17 balls to become the fourth joint fastest IPL fifty scorer.
Mandeep said they scored a decent total but Narine was the turning point.
"Definitely, the turning point was Narine's innings. If you get a good start like this in the first six overs, 50 per cent of the game is over. There was not much left for others to do for the rest of the batsmen," Mandeep said at the post-match conference.
Part-time off-spinner Nitish Rana (2/11) picked up the big wickets of AB de Villiers and skipper Virat Kohli in successive deliveries to reduce the visitors to 127/4 in 14.3 overs before Mandeep's 18-ball 37 cameo propped up the total.
"It was a crucial moment of the match to lose two big players off successive deliveries, maybe we fell short by 10-15 runs. But honestly, we thought of keeping our target in 175-180," Mandeep said.
"The more would have been a bonus for us. I think it was a decent and fighting total. But had we scored 15-20 more, it would have been tougher for the opposition.
"Mandeep disagreed that their bowling resources fell short and reiterated that Narine made all the difference."
"We mainly have five bowling options, maybe the management will think of (Pawan) Negi as another option next time. But as I said he sealed the game in the first six overs. Otherwise, we did a good job at bowling."
KKR's part-time off-spinner Rana, who got the wickets of a rampaging De Villiers and Kohli, could not have asked for more.
De Villiers, with a 23-ball 44 and Kohli (31), threatened to take the side past 200 before the Rana's 'gamble' paid off.
"I thought I had nothing lose, but everything to gain. I saw the ball was gripping from that end. I had to bowl in right areas, I backed myself and luckily got the two big wickets. It was very important to get those batsmen out at that stage," Rana said.
He also got a handy 34 from 25 balls in a crucial fifty-plus partnership with skipper Dinesh Karthik, after Umesh Yadav's twin blows in Narine and Robin Uthappa.
"I should have finished, that's my job. Next time I will keep it in my mind. It's good that people are expecting more from me, having done well last season. It's not a pressure for me," the former Mumbai Indians batsman said.