Shahbaz Ahmed

BUTTER FINGERS: Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Shahbaz Ahmed drops Kolkata Knight Riders’ Venkatesh Iyer during yesterday’s eliminator match in the Indian Premier League, at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

:—Photo: IPL

West Indies discard Sunil Narine produced a Man-of-the-Match performance as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) edged Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by four wickets in a low-scoring affair yesterday, to keep their hopes alive of a place in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final.

The 33-year-old, snubbed by selectors for the T20 World Cup later this month after failing to meet Cricket West Indies’ fitness criteria, snatched four for 21 from four overs to cripple RCB and restrict them to 138 for seven off their 20 overs.

Narine then returned with the bat to lash a 15-ball, 26 with three sixes, to spur KKR — without the injured Andre Russell — to victory, with two balls remaining.

With the win, KKR will now take on Shimron Hetmyer’s Delhi Capitals tomorrow for a place in Friday’s final against Dwayne Bravo’s Chennai Super Kings.

Opting to bat first in the eliminator at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, RCB were given a flying start by captain Virat Kohli (39) and Devdutt Padikkal (21), the pair putting on 49 off 31 balls for the first wicket.

Padikkal fell in the sixth over before off-spinner Narine claimed the second wicket in the 10th over — the first of his spell —having Srikar Bharat holing out in the deep for nine.

Narine then struck three critical blows, bowling the dangerous Kohli in the 13th, also breaching AB de Villiers’s defence to hit his stumps for 11 in the 15th, before removing Australian Glenn Maxwell for 15 to a top-edged sweep to short third man in the 17th over.

“It’s a good feeling getting wickets, especially when you get the important guys from the next team -- especially the three [key] batsmen that they have,” Narine said.

In reply, openers Shubman Gill (29) and Venkatesh Iyer (26) got the run chase up and running with 41 for the first wicket before the innings slowed, leaving KKR on 79 for three at the end of the 11th over.

However, entered Narine to turn the tide, putting the pressure back on RCB in a 31-run, fourth-wicket partnership with Nitish Rana (23). “It was just to go out there and play my natural game, to try and help my team get the runs as quickly as possible,” Narine noted. “It worked today and I thank the Lord it worked out today, and hopefully it can work out in the few games to come.”

By the time Narine lost his off stump to seamer Mohammad Siraj in the 18th over, KKR required 14 runs from 16 deliveries and crossed the line easily in the end.

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