Big-hitting Russell fires KKR closer to final

West Indies batting star Andre Russell.

KOLKATA, India, CMC – West Indies star Andre Russell sparkled with the bat and then produced a miserly spell with the ball, as his Kolkata Knight Riders stormed into the final qualifier of the Indian Premier League with a convincing 25-run win over Jofra Archer’s Rajasthan Royals here yesterday.

With his Windies teammate Sunil Narine enduring a quiet all-round night at Eden Gardens, Russell stepped up to fill the breach, finding his touch when it mattered most for the two-time IPL champions with a strong Man-of-the-Match performance.

Sent in, KKR never quite found their footing but still rallied to 169 for seven off their 20 overs, with captain Dinesh Karthik top-scoring with 52 and Russell slamming an unbeaten 49.

They were slumping at 51 for four in the eighth over after Sunil Narine perished cheaply for four but Karthik started the recovery in a 55-run, fifth wicket partnership with Shubman Gill (28).

Karthik faced 38 balls and struck four fours and two sixes while Gill belted three fours and a six in a 17-ball knock before he became Archer’s second wicket of the innings, edging a cut at one too close to him and falling to a catch at the wicket.

Russell then arrived to add 29 for the sixth wicket with Karthik and a further 29 with Barbadian Javon Searles (2) for the seventh, to further lift the innings. With just 57 runs in his six previous innings, Russell found his best touch, smashing three fours and five sixes in a 25-ball knock.

He and Karthik combined to take 19 runs from the 17th over from left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat before the Jamaican lashed a couple of sixes in the following over from seamer Ben Laughlin that went for 14 runs. Fast bowler Archer finished with two for 33 from his four overs to end his maiden IPL campaign with 15 wickets from 10 matches.

In reply, Sanju Samson top-scored with exactly 50 from 38 balls while captain Ajinkya Rahane struck 46, but KKR’s managed to restrict Royals to 144 for four off their 20 overs.

Rahane put on 47 for the first wicket with Rahul Tripathi (20) and a crucial 62 for the second wicket with Samson, but the partnership required 54 deliveries and slowed the momentum.

When three wickets – including those of Samson and Rahane – fell for 21 runs in the space of 23 balls, the innings lost its way. Russell was at the heart of the bowling effort, conceding just 22 wickets from his three overs.

KKR will face clash with Carlos Brathwaite’s Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday, for a spot in Sunday’s final against Dwayne Bravo’s Chennai Super Kings.

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