A challenging wicket provides a gripping contest. Not necessarily between the teams but at least between the bat and ball. This was on display when Pune Warriors tried to spoil Kolkata Knight Riders’ party at the DY Patil stadium on Thursday night.
The ‘contest’ was largely limited to first innings only. And it meant Pune’s aspiration to beat the Big Brother remained just a wish.
Kolkata Knight Riders hammered them by seven wickets with more than three overs to spare. The win gives them a remote chance to finish in the top-two and qualify for the ‘soft’ semifinal (winner goes to final, loser plays the quarters) if Mumbai lose to Rajasthan.
Pune will visit Delhi for the Saturday game in a match to avoid wooden-spoon while Adam Gilchrist’s Kings XI Punjab are almost out of play-off contention due to their inferior net run rate.
Yusuf Pathan made use getting promotion despite being clueless on many occasions. Batting at No. 4, he made 29 off 25. Surprisingly, the fours came behind point before a trademark six off Bhuvnesh Kumar over long-on.
Captain Gambhir (54, 46b, 7x4s) was his usual self: crafty yet quiet; effective but not belligerent. The target of 119 was a child’s play for his team. Pune’s sloppy fielding came as unwanted bonus and without enough runs on the board, leggie Rahul Shrama wasn’t a big weapon.
Kolkata won the toss, opted to bowl and restricted Pune Warriors to 118 for seven. Yuvraj Singh batted at No. 6 and top scored with 24 off 26 with two fours.
The wicket unexpectedly behaved a bit differently and assisted the spinners more. And that led to some odd happenings. The spin troika of Yusuf, Shakib Al Hasan and Iqbal Abdulla bowled 11 overs between them and conceded 51 runs for five wickets.
KKR’s specialist paceman L. Balaji was ‘introduced’ to the attack in the 20th and last over and took two wickets. Gambhir, who rotated his bowlers superbly, gave two overs on a trot to his pacemen just once despite having the likes of Balaji, Brett Lee and Jacques Kallis in his ranks.
When Robin Uthappa came in to bat, he faced a slip and silly point. Even his ‘dot’ ball (immediately after Balaji failed to judge his catch at deep mid-wicket) was applauded by non-striker and former KKR captain Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly took 19 balls before hitting his first boundary. He ran 12 singles of his own and ran his partners’ 12 runs too.
During the drinks break, KKR bowling coach Wasim Akram was seen inside the ropes having a chat with his wards.
Though off-spinner Yusuf gave KKR the first wicket (Jesse Ryder playing amateur dolly to long-off), it was the ‘visitors’ left-arm spinners Abdulla and Shakib who were a treat to watch.
Abdulla’s first ball turned sharply as Manish Pandey tried to search for it. A ball in the same over held its line and had him lbw. Shakib bowled tight line and had Calum Ferguson stumped with a ball that dipped in and turned away sharply. Despite all this, the batsmen had their moments.