Sourav Ganguly struck his sixth Indian Premier League half-century and remained in the thick of things as Kolkata Knight Riders upstaged Delhi Daredevils by 14 runs to stay afloat in the race for a semifinal berth here on Wednesday.
Cheered by a chockablock Eden Gardens crowd, the home side defended their total of 181 for three with gusto, restricting the Daredevils to 167 for eight for their sixth win in 10 outings.
The 99-run stand between Virender Sehwag (64) and Gautam Gambhir (47) was the bedrock of Daredevils’ chase, which wilted 14 runs short of their opponents’ total.
Earlier, Ganguly (56 off 46 balls) and Chris Gayle (40 off 21 balls) milked 94 runs in the first 10-odd overs to give the home side a perfect start before the Daredevils bowlers put a brake on the run rate.
Down the order, Angelo Mathews (46 off 28) and Manoj Tiwary (26) starred in a 70-run unbeaten stand in the final seven overs to help the Knight Riders post a respectable total.
The Daredevils wobbled early in their chase as Ashok Dinda, breathing fire, castled the explosive David Warner for a five-ball duck.
Neither Sehwag nor Gambhir looked quite at ease initially but they were soon in their elements.
Sehwag’s cause was also helped by the two lives he got on 35 and 47 with Iqbal Abdulla and Wriddhiman Saha dropping him with Ajantha Mendis being the hapless bowlers on both occasions.
Gambhir singled out Angelow Mathews for special treatment, while Sehwag treated everyone with equal disdain. The duo had milked 99 runs when Ganguly’s direct throw ended Gambhir’s 29-ball stay.
Mendis removed Paul Collingwood (2) soon but Sehwag kept dealing in fours and sixes before dragging an Ajit Agarkar delivery onto his stumps in the 15th over.
Ganguly was soon in the thick of things, taking two catches and ringing in bowling changes which clicked just when the team required them.
Having opted to bat first, Ganguly earlier continued his fine form, hitting his sixth IPL half-century to help Kolkata Knight Riders notch 181 for three.
Ganguly hit a 46-ball 56 with eight fours and one six and put on 94 runs for the opening wicket with Gayle before both got out to in quick successions as the home side suddenly found going tough.
The home side got off to a breezy start with Ganguly and Gayle not allowing the Daredevils bowlers to settle down and at one point, the home side, cheered on by a jam-packed crowd, were cruising along at 11-plus an over.
But the Daredevils got into their act with some fine bowling by Rajat Bhatia (one for 30) and Daniel Vettori (one for 30) to take three quick wickets — Gayle, Ganguly and Brendon McCullum (6) — and apply the brake.
Gambhir’s gamble of beginning the proceedings with Daniel Vettori backfired on Wednesday as Ganguly plundered the left-arm spinner for 15 runs to take the run-rate over 10.
Dishing out some sheer timing and late cuts, Ganguly hit three fours in Vettori’s first over and Gambhir had to take the New Zealander out of the attack.
But the opening duo did not look in any trouble at tall and kept on dissecting their field with Ganguly taking the charge, while Gayle opting to show some restraint.
It was only in Amit Mishra’s first over that Ganguly struggled and almost had his defence crashed to a perfect googly.
Till then, Gayle was a mute spectator at the other end, only to explode in the leg-spinner’s second over as he walloped one six and two boundaries in the seventh over which yielded 15 runs.
Just when he was beginning to look dangerous, Bhatia deceived Gayle with a slower one that knocked off the off-stump.
Ganguly, meanwhile, carved out his sixth IPL half-century with Knight Riders getting to the 100-mark by 11th over.
But the Daredevils quickly got into their attack with some fine bowling and fielding.
Vettori made up for his poor first over, dismissing Ganguly with a nicely looped delivery to castle the home side skipper.
Daredevils claimed their prize scalp in McCullum when the big-hitting New Zealander was run-out for six as KKR were reduced to 111 for three in 13.1 overs.
Mathews and Tiwary then took the onus on themselves to prop up the innings, playing cheeky shots and running hard between the wickets.