The stage was set for a humdinger of the finals in Bangladesh with Khulna Tigers the favourites to win the title for the first time. They had beaten their opponents - Rajshahi Royals - in the first Qualifier after Mohammad Amir's six for 17 and there seemed to be no force capable of stopping them.
Only there was. The same player who went at 8.2 runs per over and scored a duck in the qualifiers proved to be their nemesis in the finals as Rajshahi Royals stole the title from under their noses. This player, a certain Andre Russell, is a known thief in T20 cricket, one capable of completely changing the course of a T20 game with his raw impact with bat or ball.
Sample this. On April fifth at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, the Bangalore franchise had racked up a formidable 205 on board. At 139/4 after 15.4 overs, Kolkata's run-chase seemed done and dusted when Russell walked in to bat. In 4.2 overs, Kolkata needed 67 runs to win. This equation got tougher when Dinesh Karthik departed off the last ball of the 17th over to leave Kolkata with 53 to get from three overs.
Long story short, Kolkata won with five balls to spare which meant that they scored 53 in 13 balls! The culprit. Andre Russell, who slammed seven sixes and a four in two overs bowled by Marcus Stoinis and Tim Southee. He finished on 49 off 13 balls as Kolkata won by five wickets.
This isn't a one-off from Russell, though. His scores in the Indian T20 League in 2019 went from stunning to mind-blowing to gobsmacking - 49 (19), 48(17), 62 (28), 48(13), 50 (44), 45(21), 10(4), 65(25), 15(9), 14(14), 80(40), 24(14) and a normal man's 0(1) to end the season.
On Friday, he showcased his overall versatility by smashing a 16-ball 27 to propel the Royals to 170 from what appeared to be a rather meek total. He then went on to produce a telling bowling performance, cleaning up Mushfiqur Rahim for 21 and then Shadman Islam later on to finish with two for 32 to win the Man of the Match award.
Forgetting his impact with the ball, Russell remains one of the most impactful T20 cricketers ever. It's no fluke that he has been in the title-winning side in the Indian T20 League twice, Caribbean Premier League once, World T20 twice and now the Bangladesh Premier League too.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Adrian Dennis