Is Andre Russell the most valuable T20 player in the world? He has the stats (and the Smart Stats) to back such a claim, and on Monday he added to his vast body of work with a brief and brutal assault that transformed the mood of what had until then been an edgy battle for first-innings points.
Russell came in with Kolkata Knight Riders 113 for 4 in the 14th over. He departed 22 balls later, having added 61 to his team's total in the company of the impressive Nitish Rana.He only faced 12 balls, but he hit six of them for six.
Knight Riders finished with exactly 200. This was a difficult target against Knight Riders' spin attack, on a pitch offering a good amount of turn.
Delhi Daredevils needed a strong start; they ended up slipping to 24 for 3. It was all uphill from there, and Daredevils didn't have the legs for the climb, with none of their batsmen getting into double figures apart from Rishabh Pant and Glenn Maxwell, who threatened briefly to make this a contest with a 62-run stand for the fourth wicket in 33 balls.
Daredevils were bowled out for 129, with 5.4 overs still to play.
Uthappa and Rana make up for misfiring Narine and Lynn
Chris Lynn likes pace, but doesn't score as quickly against spin. Sunil Narine likes spin, but isn't too fond of fast, short bowling (16 off 20 balls against this type of bowling last season, and four dismissals).
It's a hard opening pair to plan against, and Daredevils, having chosen to bowl, went all pace at the start. It worked: Trent Boult started the game with the first maiden of the season, to an off-colour Lynn who struggled for timing, and then sent back Narine with a well-directed bouncer.
After that early dose of pace, it was all spin from overs 6-10, presumably in an effort to keep Lynn quiet. Daredevils managed that, as Lynn ended the 10th over batting on 28 off 25, but the batsmen at the other end compensated, with Robin Uthappa and Nitish Rana hitting five sixes between them in that phase. Knight Riders ended the first half of their innings at 85 for 2.
Russell ruins Shami's night
It remained like that for a while: runs coming quickly at one end but not quite at the other. Mohammed Shami, varying his pace constantly, went for only 11 in his first two overs, the 11th and 13th of Knight Riders' innings, and sent back Lynn with a well-disguised knuckleball.
Vijay Shankar and Chris Morris, meanwhile, went for 12 and 15 against Rana and Dinesh Karthik in the 12th and 14th overs.
Neither team could really say it was significantly in front at the start of the 15th over, which began with Russell batting on 0 off 0. Twenty-two came off that over, with Russell ramping, lofting and muscling Shami for three massive sixes.
In between, he miscued one, only for Jason Roy to drop him, diving forward after running in from long-on.
Rana was the dominant partner in the next over, pulling Morris for six and then holding his shape to carve a slower one over point for four, before Russell versus Shami resumed. Three more sixes came off this over, off three very different deliveries - a wide, full slower ball; a length ball; a bouncer - and 20 runs in all.
It took a perfectly directed yorker from Boult to send back Russell in the 18th over. Then Rana played a couple of outrageous shots himself - a middle-stump yorker from Boult squeezed past short third man, a scything square-drive off Morris that made deep point redundant - before falling for 59 off 34 in the penultimate over. With Knight Riders' batting might almost extinguished, Rahul Tewatia took three wickets and only conceded one run off the last over, but the damage had been done.
Early wickets seal the deal
Roy came into this match fresh off a match-winning, unbeaten 91 in a chase of not dissimilar magnitude against Mumbai Indians. There would be no repeat here. Piyush Chawla bowled the first over, no doubt because of Roy's dodgy T20 record against legspin, and had him stumped down the leg side when he spotted him charging out of his crease too early. That was Roy's 12th dismissal to legspin in 27 innings - in that time he has scored 190 runs against them at a strike rate of roughly 126.
Russell's pace and bounce did for Shreyas Iyer, who fended a rising delivery to slip, and when Gautam Gambhir chopped on against Shivam Mavi, Daredevils had lost a wicket in each of their first three overs.
With no option but to keep playing their shots, Pant and Maxwell kept the game alive for a little longer, but with such a large chunk of Daredevils' resources already depleted, it was a matter of time before Knight Riders would reassert their dominance. Both fell to Kuldeep Yadav; Pant smashed him straight to deep midwicket in the ninth over, and Maxwell, having just struck successive sixes off him in the 11th, holed out attempting a third in a row. Morris and Shankar, the last two recognised batsmen, fell in the space of three stump-to-stump balls from Sunil Narine, enabling him to pick up his 100th and 101st IPL wickets.