Sourav Ganguly hammered an unbeaten 75 to guide Kolkata Knight Riders to an emphatic eight-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals in an IPL match here on Saturday.
Captain Ganguly played sheet anchor in KKR’s run chase of 133 as he carried his bat through the innings, hitting 11 fours and two sixes in 50 balls to help his side reach the target with 23 balls to spare in front of the home crowd at the Eden Gardens.
Chetshwar Pujara gave him able support with an unbeaten 38-ball 45 which was studded with five fours and a six as the duo shared run-a-ball 80-run partnership for the unfinished third wicket.
Ganguly hit the winning runs, a single, off Aaron Finch as the home side reached 133 for two in 16.1 overs.
Earlier, electing to bat, Rajasthan Royals could make 132 for nine with Shane Watson top-scoring with a 26-ball 44.
After Saturday’s win, KKR still have an outside chance to qualify for the semi-finals with 12 points from 13 matches and a net run rate of minus 0.456.
They still need to beat table toppers Mumbai Indians at the same venue on April 19 in their last league match to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
With this loss, Rajasthan Royals ended their hopes of making it to the semi-finals. They have 12 points after their last league match on Saturday.
KKR looked like they wanted to win the match in quick time to shore up their net run rate with Ganguly and his opening partner Brendon McCullum smashing 21 runs in first two overs.
Ganguly smashed two fours off Yusuf Pathan in the first over and then followed them with another off Shane Watson in the second over before KKR was pegged back by two quick wickets in a space of three balls in the third over bowled by Kamran Khan.
McCullum (6), who opened along with Ganguly instead of Chris Gayle, was the first to go as he offered a Kamran full toss for a simple catch to square leg fielder Shane Watson.
Gayle followed McCullum two balls later for a duck to leave KKR at 22 for two.
The dismissal of two big hitters seemed to have boomeranged KKR plans for a quick win and Ganguly and next man in Cheteshwar Pujara retreated into a shell.
The duo ran mostly in singles and waited for loose balls as KKR 50 came in the eighth over.
By the halfway mark, the home side were 69 for two and two overs later Ganguly decided to open up his arms, smashing a four off Pathan and followed by a six off Adam Voges in the 13th over.
Pujara was also not the one to remain quiet now as he also hit a four off Pathan and a six off Voges. The duo took 14 runs from the 16th over and ended the match in the next ball.
Kamran Khan was the only successful Rajasthan Royals bowler taking two wickets by conceding 13 runs from his two overs.
Earlier, rookie left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat took three wickets as Kolkata Knight Riders restricted Rajasthan Royals for 132 for nine.
Opting to bat, Rajasthan Royals had a breezy start scoring at a run rate of over eight till the seventh over thanks to their opening pair of Shane Watson (44) and Naman Ojha (18) but they soon lost their way.
Playing in his second match, Saurashtra pacer Unadkat returned with impressive figures of 4-0-26-3 while pacer Ashok Dinda scalped two wickets for 24 runs.
Shane Bond, Murali Kartik and Laxmi Ratan Shukla chipped in with a wicket each.
Australian all-rounder Watson began with a four and continued with his onslaught as Royals raced to 32 for no loss in the first five overs.
Wicketkeeper batsman Ojha played a perfect foil to give maximum strike to Watson as the duo stitched 50 runs together from 39 balls. Watson hammered rookie left-arm pacer Unadkat for 14 runs in his first over to help the run-rate go past seven-run mark.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla gave the first breakthrough for KKR taking the prized scalp of Watson in the third ball of the eighth over as the opening partnership was broken for 59.
The Australian misread a slower delivery to see his stumps uprooted. Watson’s 44 came 26 balls with the help of seven boundaries and one six.
In the next over, Ojha was dismissed by Unadkat as Royals were reduced to 69 for two in 8.4 overs and two new men in Aaron Finch and Yusuf Pathan occupied the crease.
A superb diving catch by Sourav Ganguly brought the Eden crowd to their feet as the skipper cut short dangerman Yusuf Pathan’s innings for just eight runs.
Pathan faltered while attempting a six over midwicket from Unadkat as the ball soared up. Ganguly ran back from midwicket keeping his eyes firmly on the ball and dived for a stunning catch to reduce Royals to 74 for three in 10.2 overs.
Three wickets — Adam Voges (8), Finch (21) and Abhishek Raut (2) — fell in three consecutive overs as Royals looked in trouble with 103 for six in 15.5 overs.
Unadkat then dismissed Raut for his third wicket to return the most successful KKR bowler. Voges fell to Dinda, while Finch became the only victim of Shane Bond.