Phil Salt and Mitchell Starc headline KKR’s thumping win

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Kolkata Knight Riders 162 for 2 (Salt 89*, Shreyas 38*, Mohsin 2-29) beat Lucknow Super Giants 161 for 7 (Pooran 45, Rahul 39, Starc 3-28) by eight wickets

Phil Salt and Mitchell Starc made it a Bengali New Year to remember for the Kolkata Knight Riders fans at Eden Gardens, helping the hosts thump Lucknow Super Giants by eight wickets on Sunday. Starc picked up important LSG wickets to finish with 3 for 28, his best figures of the season, while Salt led the charge in the chase with an unbeaten 47-ball 89. KKR now sit second on the points table, having begun a string of five straight home games in fabulous fashion.

KKR were also left chasing a comfortable target courtesy their spinners’ efforts in the middle overs; they did not let LSG break away despite having wickets in hand. Sunil Narine took 1 for 17 in four while Varun Chakravarthy claimed 1 for 30. Together, their eight overs went for only 5.88 per over.

As for LSG, there were two silver linings, provided by Nicholas Pooran and Mohsin Khan. From No. 6, Pooran struck four sixes and two fours to make a 32-ball 45 to give LSG a competitive total while Mohsin picked up the only two KKR wickets to fall, both in the powerplay.

Salt shakes up LSG

After the game, KL Rahul described the defeat as a “proper hammering”, and the prime reason for that was Salt. Having been dismissed for a duck in Chennai in KKR’s previous game, Salt was very nearly out for a duck again when he clipped debutant Shamar Joseph to short-fine leg. Luckily for Salt, Yash Thakur dropped him and even if he hadn’t, Joseph’s front-foot no-ball would’ve given him a reprieve anyway. After that let-off, Salt finished the first over with a six down the ground, and then continued to go for it through the powerplay.That helped KKR stay on course even as Sunil Narine and Angkrish Raghuvanshi fell cheaply. He clubbed Krunal Pandya for a hat-trick of boundaries in the third over and that set up a 58-run powerplay.

On 31, Salt was dropped again at deep-square leg in the seventh over, and it perhaps made him tentative for a couple of overs. But Salt once again found momentum in the tenth over, bowled by Arshad Khan (the bowler paying the price for having dropped him three overs earlier). Salt struck consecutive fours in the tenth to reach his fifty in 26 balls and bring up KKR’s hundred inside ten overs.

Salt then began to apply the finishing touches when he struck Thakur for three fours in the 14th over, followed by a massive six over midwicket off Mohsin in the 15th. His pull for four in the 16th over off a half-tracker from Bishnoi summed up both the KKR batting innings and the LSG bowling performance.

From the other end, Shreyas Iyer made up for a slow start to finish unbeaten for the second time this season. He did not need to take risks, given Salt’s brisk scoring and the two early wickets.

He played aggressive shots only as the target got closer. He struck Ravi Bishnoi and Arshad for boundaries through the middle overs to move from 6 off 12 to finish unbeaten on 38 off 38. He was particularly strong off his hips as the LSG pacers erred by bowling too many times on a leg-stump line. His unbroken partnership of 120 with Salt was the highest third-wicket stand for KKR in the IPL.

Starc leads KKR’s bowling charge

After Vaibhav Arora struck early to remove Quinton de Kock, Shreyas gave Starc a third powerplay over in the afternoon heat to find another wicket. He did that when an out-of-form Deepak Hooda sliced him to backward point in the fifth over.

Rahul and the No. 4 Ayush Badoni then consolidated to take LSG to 72 for 2 in ten overs, however Rahul’s attempt to up his scoring rate resulted in his dismissal. Rahul struck Andre Russell for a six to start off the 11th over but while attempting a repeat next ball, he holed out for 39 at deep midwicket. That brought in Marcus Stoinis, but his stay was short lived when he was deceived by Varun, inside-edging a catch to the off-side which the wicketkeeper Salt smartly collected.

At 109 for 4 in 14 overs, LSG were at risk of finishing well under-par. The situation become more dire when Badoni top-edged Narine in the 15th for a laboured 27-ball 29. Narine would concede no boundaries as he finished with 1 for 17.

But while Pooran was around, LSG still had hope, and he offered just that with his 32-ball 45. He went after the inexperienced pair of Harshit Rana and Arora in the death overs, helping LSG score 29 runs off the 18th and 19th overs. However, Starc stopped further damage in the 20th over, when he had Pooran nicking behind off the first ball. That ensured LSG would score only 52 runs off the final six overs, with Starc embellishing his returns with a third wicket off the final delivery of the innings.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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