Sunday’s two champions’ league games in Hyderabad had intriguing ends. In the first match, Cape Cobras were cruising with control until 5 overs from close in their match against Hobart Hurricanes only to lose it at the end. Unfortunately, it was virtually the advent of video-replay technology that cost Cobras the game. Aiden Blizzard benefitted from the third umpire’s decision and blasted a 48-ball 78 to shock the Cobras in leading Hobart Hurricanes to a fine victory. In the second match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Lahore Lions, KKR spinners tamed the Lahorian Lions, who began promisingly. Sunil Narine yielded just 9 runs in 4 overs and scalped 3 Lahore wickets with the Pakistani side finishing at 151/7. KKR came up with a solid opening stand and notched up an easy victory.
Choosing to bat first after winning the toss, Cape Cobras put up a challenging 184/6 in 20 overs. Except Hashim Amla, all their batsmen made useful contribution to the score. Though they lost a few early wickets, Cobras kept the scoring tempo throughout the innings. Opener Richard Levi hit up a 30-ball 42 despite Amla departing in the second over. Omphile Ramela and Dane Vilas also came up with small cameos in good time to keep the score ticking. Even Bollinger and Hilfenhaus could not curtail the determined Cobras. The best partnership came for the seventh wicket between Robin Petersen and Vernon Philander. Cobras had lost their sixth wicket for 132 in the 16th over but Petersen and Philander scored at an average of more than 10 per over to put Cobras in a fairly advantageous position. Both batsmen remained unbeaten; Petersen on 25 and Philander on 32 and they each faced only 14 balls.
Chasing 185, Hurricanes began well. Ben Dunk and Tim Paine put up a good opening stand of 51 in less than 5 overs. Even after Paine was bowled by Charl Langeveldt, Hurricanes continued their chase as Dunk and Blizzard put on 40 runs in the next 5.4 overs. At this point, Dunk lost his wicket after making 54 off 35 balls. With two more wickets falling in quick succession, the required rate shot up. After the fall of the fourth wicket, Hurricanes required 64 in 34 balls and they had Blizzard and Jonathan wells on the crease. The Cobras bowlers kept the two batsmen quiet and by 17th over 44 were required from 18 balls. Cobras had smelled victory at this point. On the second delivery from Philander in the 18th over, Blizzard pulled hard and flat but not high enough. Sybrand Engelbrecht took a well-judged catch at long-on boundary and Blizzard started walking away. But the umpires asked him to wait and paused the game to check Philander’s feet. The video replay confirmed that the bowler had overstepped. The next ball was a free hit and Blizzard comfortably lifted it out of the ground. Together, Blizzard and Wells whacked Philander and collected 24 runs to change the game altogether. With 20 runs needed now, the batsmen didn’t wait for the last over and settled the issue by clouting Langeveldt for 3 sixes in the 19th to leave the Cobras shell-shocked. Blizzard finished with 78 not out off 48 balls and deservedly earned the man-of-the-match award.
In the day/night game later, KKR won the toss and asked Lahore Lions to bat first. The Lions looked promising in the opening power-play as they scored 47 without losing any wicket despite the maiden fifth over from Sunil Narine. But as Gambhir called his spinners, the rate of scoring dropped. The opening stand was broken by a fantastic direct throw from Andre Russell. The Lions’ innings stuttered as KKR spinners made life difficult for them. Young Kuldeep Yadav showed marvelous temperament and his wrist-spinners were unplayable. Only Piyush Chawla proved expensive. But the man, who completely throttled Lions’ batting, was the wily Narine. With his nagging line, Narine was difficult to score against. In four overs, Narine gave away just 9 runs and grabbed 3 wickets. Of the middle order batsmen, only Umar Akmal scored 40 off 24 balls and ensured that Lions go past 150. Ahmed Shehzad was Lions’ top scorer with a 42-ball 59. Those, who had never faced Narine didn’t know how to deal with his bowling.
Chasing 151 for victory, Gautam Gambhir and Uthappa put on 100 for the first wicket. They benefitted from the sloppy fielding and dropped chances but the solid foundation led them to another victory. After the openers were out; a few quick wickets caused some alarm to KKR but their batting reserve lower down, prevented a collapse. Suryakumar Yadav finished off the task by hitting 14 off the 5 balls he faced. The 4-wicket victory for KKR was their 11th T20 win in a row.
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