Venkatesh Iyer overcame a painful blow on the knee to smash his maiden IPL century, but it went in vain as the Kolkata Knight Riders went down to the Mumbai Indians by five wickets in the IPL 2023 match on Sunday.
Iyer, who hurt his knee after missing a scoop shot off MI pacer Cameron Green, hobbled between the wickets after the blow, but showed great resolve to battle it out despite the pain to blast an entertaining 104 from 51 balls, hitting nine sixes and six fours at the Wankhede stadium.
It is turning out to be a season of redemption for the tall left-hander. His superb showing in IPL 2021 with 370 runs at an average of 41 paved the way to his selection in the Indian white ball teams.
Iyer failed to repeat the magic last season, managing just 182 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 107, while he also lost his place in the Indian team.
Things got worse in October when he broke his ankle after he slipped off a staircase, which ruled him out of action for nearly six months.
The Ranji Trophy semi-final for Madhya Pradesh against Bengal in February was his only piece of action in the last six months as he underwent surgery followed by long recovery and rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
This year Iyer looks super keen to make up for lost time. He has smashed his way to the top of the IPL 2023 run scoring charts with 234 runs from five games, at a strike rate of 170, including a fifty and a century.
The 28 year old was instrumental in reviving KKR after a difficult start at the Wankhede. He got going with a four and a six off debutant Arjun Tendulkar in the third over before he repeated the dose on Green in the next over, during which he suffered the injury to the knee.
He looked in a lot of pain but decided to continue after a few minutes of treatment. Initially, he struggled to run between the wickets but it didn't seem to hamper his strokeplay as he went about attacking the MI bowlers to all parts of the stadium.
Iyer welcomed debutant pacer Duan Jansen with a couple of sixes in the fifth over to take KKR past the 50 run mark.
While MI checked KKR's progress with wickets at regular intervals, Iyer ensured the visitors didn't lose the momentum as he kept the boundaries coming.
He raced to his half-century from just 22 balls before he slog swept spinner Hrithik Shokeen for a six over square leg, in the ninth over.
Pace bowler Riley Meredith also suffered at the hands of Iyer as he was carted for back to back sixes in the 11th over.
Such was Iyer's impact with the bat that till the 11th over he was the only KKR batter to hit a boundary. It was only in the 12th over when Shardul Thakur managed a four that someone else other than Iyer had hit a boundary for KKR this game.
Iyer brought up his first T20 century with a single off Jansen in the 17th over; the landmark arrived from just 49 balls.
This was the first century by a KKR batter since Brendon McCullum who scored 158 in the opening match of the inaugural IPL season in 2008.
If the other KKR batters had given Iyer support they would have easily got 200 or more. KKR's bowlers struggled to make an impact on the flat Wankhede wicket as MI chased down the runs easily, with 14 balls to spare.