Venkatesh Iyer made it to the record books on Sunday afternoon as he became the second Kolkata Knight Riders cricketer - after Brendon McCullum - to score a century (104, 51b, 6x4, 9x6) in the Indian Premier League (IPL.
On a Wankhede Stadium surface where the batters struggled against the cutters and slower deliveries, Venkatesh found boundaries at will and rode on some clean hitting to bring up his maiden ton in the tournament and also guided the team to 185 for six.
But at the end of it all, it was a heartbreak for the visiting side as Mumbai Indians rode on Ishan Kishan’s half-century and a crucial 43 (25b, 4x4, 3x6) by Suryakumar Yadav, who led the team as regular captain Rohit Sharma had to sit out in the first innings due to a stomach bug, to clinch a convincing five-wicket win.
In its previous nine outings at the iconic venue, Mumbai Indians won on eight occasions and this time around, Venkatesh’s superlative innings had given KKR a ray of hope. But as the game progressed, things went MI’s way as none of the KKR bowlers - barring spinner Suyash Sharma, who claimed a couple of wickets - failed to make an impact.
After struggling in the first three games, the seasoned Suryakumar stepped up when it mattered and forged two crucial partnerships - a 60 with Tilak Varma and then a 29-run stand with Tim David - to guide the team home with 14 balls to spare.
Chasing a tall total, Rohit came in as Impact Player, replacing Riley Meredith, and forged a 65-run opening partnership with Kishan, before a screamer of a catch by Umesh Yadav off Suyash sent him back to the dugout.
Suryakumar and Kishan ensured that Mumbai didn’t lose the plot as the two showed resilience and patience to rebuild. Even after Kishan was cleaned up by Varun Chakravarthy, Suryakumar stood firm and eventually got the team closer to the target before missing out on a much-needed fifty by just seven runs.
However, KKR would be disappointed with the way it lost the plot despite Venkatesh’s heroics. After putting KKR in to bat, Cameron Green dismissed N. Jagadeesan for a duck, and with Piyush Chawla and Hrithik Shokeen tightening the noose, neither Rahmanullah Gurbaz nor Nitish Rana could make an impression.
But Venkatesh stood firm and, overcoming the challenging weather conditions, hit a flurry of fours and sixes to put the pressure back on MI. But after he fell to Meredith, KKR’s run-flow dried and the visiting side could score only 45 runs in the last five overs, which hurt the team dearly.
As more than 19,000 girls from 36 NGOs attended the game and cheered for Mumbai Indians, the team donned the WPL (Women’s Premier League) colours and also handed a debut to Arjun Tendulkar. Son of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, Arjun opened the proceedings for MI and conceded 17 runs in two overs. Though he did not get a second spell, the young fast bowler made his presence felt.
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