IPL 2020: Kolkata Knight Riders left with hearts in mouth as Glenn Maxwell's final hit falls millimetres short
TV replays show Australia's shot fell just shy of the boundary as Kolkata win by 2 runs
With two Super Overs already and a record-breaking run-chase besides, the 2020 IPL has form for throwing up matches decided by narrow margins.
The meeting between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders put a new slant on the theme, though, as fans were denied another tie-breaker over by a matter of millimetres.
After Punjab made a cringingly botched job of their run-chase, Glenn Maxwell needed to hit the last ball of the game from Sunil Narine for six to force a Super Over.
The Australian connected sweetly with a drive over long off, towards the shortest boundary at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
It fell agonisingly close to the boundary cushions. Umpire Chris Gaffaney immediately signalled four, but Kolkata looked apprehensive about celebrating the win just yet.
It had been such a close run thing that the officials opted to double-check with the assistance of TV – and Gaffaney’s eyesight was proved to be 20-20. The ball had bounced just before, giving Kolkata a two-run win.
It was their second tight defence in a matter of days, after closing out a similar effort against Chennai Super Kings earlier in the week.
This time, however, they were without their death-overs specialist for the final throes, as Andre Russell had limped off the field injured.
The Jamaican all-rounder had injured his right knee as he collided with an advertising board while attempting to prevent a boundary after he dropped KL Rahul in the power-play.
By the time spinner Narine came to bowl the last, needing to defend 14 to win, Kolkata were as good as favourites – yet they should have been well-beaten already by that point.
Punjab had been 144-1 in the 18th over, with Rahul and Pooran at the crease, yet somehow contrived to fail to reach the 164 they needed to win.
“We just hung in there and hung in there, and we believed if we could get a wicket or two at some point, we could put pressure on them,” Dinesh Karthik, the Kolkata captain, said.
“Credit to Sunny [Narine] and Prasidh [Krishna] who put the pressure on and created the opportunities. Overall, it was a good bowling effort.
“Sunny showed his experience. It is not easy for a spinner to bowl those death overs, but he was really good.
“It was not just about his experience, but because of the way he bowled his previous three overs made it an easy choice.
“We only had a discussion over the last ball. Till then, he was very sure what he was doing.
“We had a conversation about what was the best ball to bowl, and we decided it was a wide yorker.
“He bowled it well, but Maxwell played a great shot. It was a close game.”
Narine said he feared they had come up with the wrong strategy when Maxwell made contact with the last ball.
“I bowled full and wide, but then I thought I had made a mistake,” Narine said.
“It is not ideal [for me to bowling at the death] but someone has to do that.
“I am used to doing it in the past. Inside the pulse is racing, but this calm is just how I am.”
Defeat left Punjab rooted to the bottom of the table, but this must have been the toughest loss to take so far, given they had the game as good as won.
Mayank Agarwal, who made his third score in excess of 50 in the competition, said it was a “bitter pill” to take, while captain Rahul was at a loss to explain it.
“I have no answers,” said Rahul, who top-scored in the match with 74.
“We just need to keep coming harder in the next seven games. We bowled really, really well.
“I don't think we were satisfied at any stage in the chase. You are satisfied only when you win the game.
“Towards the end, we kept losing wickets, and couldn't get us over the line.”
Updated: October 10, 2020 09:45 PM