Former Knight Brad Hodge’s brutal last-over assault on Brett Lee at the Nehru Stadium was just the tonic Kochi Tuskers needed to breathe fresh life into their stuttering IPL 4 campaign.
That 21-run over gave the Tuskers a total (156/5) which was defendable with tight bowling and sharp fielding. And Mahela Jayawardene’s boys did just that, pinning the high-flying Kolkata Knight Riders down to 139/7 for a well-deserved 17-run win.
It was the Tuskers’ second triumph over the Knights in two starts, having defended a much lower total at the Eden Gardens a fortnight back. The Tuskers, who now move to Indore for their final two ‘home’ games, have 10 points and need to win at least 3 out of their remaining four games. The Knights are slightly better placed, and must clinch 2 of their last 4 to be sure of a knock-out berth, but they have been given plenty to think about.
To chase down a target close to 8 runs an over, the Knights needed a brisk start and at least two of their top guns to fire. Eoin Morgan did (66 off 51 balls), but he alone didn’t have it in him to carry KKR over the line.
Except the first 5 overs – when Morgan and Kallis collected 40 runs as Sreesanth and RP Singh erred in length and direction — KKR didn’t look to be in business. And this despite Morgan being there till the 19th over. The introduction of the tall and stockily built Prasanth Parmeswaran slowed down the scoring considerably. The left-arm pacer, Man of the Match in Kochi’s previous game against the Daredevils, checked the run flow with some clever variations in pace and length.
With Vinay Kumar bowling steadily and Raiphi Gomez sending back Kallis and Gautam Gambhir off successive balls in the 11th over, KKR’s task was made even more difficult. Manoj Tiwary struggled, for a change, and Yusuf Pathan wasn’t given the luxury of freeing his arms.
KKR earlier read the pitch wrong and played an extra spinner in Sarabjit Ladda, ‘resting’ Lakshmipathy Balaji despite seeing a tinge of green on the 22-yard strip. The pedestrian leggie bowled no more than an over in which he conceded 13 runs.
Even then, the KKR bowlers did a decent job for 19 overs, when they looked on course to restricting the Tuskers to 140 or thereabouts. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene once more shone through, stroking a classy 55 (41b, 2×4, 2×6) to hold the Kochi innings together. But KKR hadn’t counted Hodge playing a blinder.
He tore into fellow-Aussie Lee with a sequence of 6, 4, 6, 4, 1 off the final 5 balls of the innings to spoil the pacer’s day. Hodge began the carnage with a pulled six over midwicket, and then as Lee pitched them up, peppered the offside with three more meaty blows.
Lee’s fourth and final over was some contrast to his first. Brendon McCullum was made to look a novice as Lee tormented him with some late swing. The frustrated Kiwi slashed at a widish ball from Jaidev Unadkat to be held by Kallis at slip.
Parthiv Patel (21, 4×4) flattered to deceive in a short innings, falling prey to a short ball from Unadkat, while Ravindra Jadeja perished to a poor shot off Rajat Bhatia. It was left to Mahela to steer the ship through choppy waters, with some help from Michael Klinger. But the captain’s fine effort may have gone down the drain had Hodge not cut loose at the very end.