Extremely smart batting by the top order provided the Kolkata Knight Riders with their first win of the Champions League Twenty20.
Having let the initiative go when their bowlers conceded as many as 67 runs in the last five overs of the Royal Challengers Bangalore innings, the visitors executed the chase of a stiff 169 to near-perfection to bring up an impressive nine-wicket victory in the 18th over.
While the victory, their first from three games, may not be enough to take them to the semifinals, they have made things more difficult for RCB.
For a major part of their innings, RCB struggled to get going. At 102/6 at the end of the 15th over, RCB looked done and dusted. That’s when skipper Daniel Vettori (44; 23b, 5×4, 2×6) took it upon himself to bat his side out of trouble. His explosive 61-run, seventh-wicket stand with debutant Rajoo Bhatkal (25; 18b, 2×4, 1×6) seemed to have turned it around for the home side.
That is, until the big guns in the opposition ranks got together. Kallis (64 not out; 47b, 4×4, 1×6) and Brad Haddin (42; 27b, 5×4, 2×6) were the initial aggressors with a 62-run (44 balls) opening stand after which Gambhir (55 not out; 32b, 3×4, 4×6) rediscovered his form.
No bowler was spared, with left-arm pacer S Arvind, named in the Indian ODI squad earlier in the day, marked out for special treatment by Haddin, who took 19 off his third over to tilt the balance in favour of KKR.
Earlier, it all started with a maiden bowled by Lee to Chris Gayle. In his next over, the pacer got smashed for two successive sixes only for Kallis to send Gayle’s stumps crashing.
At the other end Lee got rid of Virat Kohli, which meant that the pressure was on Tillakaratne Dilshan, the man who replaced the injured AB de Villiers as wicketkeeper-batsman. Dilshan (18, 21b, 2×4) did hang around for a while but a smart stumping by Brad Haddin did him in.
Thereafter wickets fell in a flurry and only the late onslaught by Vettori and Bhatkal gave RCB some hope.