Kolkata Knight Riders could not have asked for a sweeter homecoming.
Its accomplished openers, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, struck superb half-centuries to contribute to the thrilling seven-run win over Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday. Knight Riders’ sixth victory propelled it to the top of the table.
Asked to bat, Knight Riders first banked on a responsible 101-run partnership between Gambhir (54) and Uthappa (70) to post a challenging 164 for three and then rode on Andre Russell’s four-wicket haul to overshadow Glenn Maxwell’s clinical onslaught for Kings.
The Gambhir-Uthappa stand was one of control and execution.
The former, in particular, was impressive, finding the gaps at will against the Kings XI pacers. Uthappa, on the other hand, began in uncharacteristic fashion, but played the support role well.
On a roll
When Kings skipper M. Vijay chose to bowl his spinners on the slow track, the Knight Riders openers adapted to the situation, playing the ball on its merit.
The two, who were involved in a 50-plus stand for the fifth time in this edition, became the only pair to do so in two seasons of the IPL.
Gambhir and Uthappa went on to achieve their first century stand this year.
The Knight Riders skipper, who hammered six fours apart from a spectacular pulled six off Swapnil Singh, was run out in the 14th over, caught short by Maxwell’s throw at the non-striker’s end.
Uthappa, who was dropped immediately after scoring his third half-century, took a while to showcase his firepower, but eventually hit six fours and two sixes. A terrible mix-up with Yusuf Pathan resulted in Uthappa’s dismissal in the 17th over.
For Kings, young pacer Sandeep bowled with unerring accuracy to restrict the host batsmen in the death overs. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, too, made an impact with his subtle variety.
In reply, Kings made a poor start, losing three wickets for just 13. However, sleeping giant Maxwell refused to be cowed down by the situation, taking the attack to the Knight Riders bowlers and reviving his team’s hopes.
The Aussie, who had shown glimpses of form against Mumbai Indians last week, picked Brad Hogg for special treatment. Maxwell clubbed six fours and four mighty sixes in his 42-ball 68. Just when he looked for more, he was adjudged lbw off Piyush Chawla who bowled a tidy spell.
Wriddhiman Saha (24), who was involved in the rescue act along with Maxwell before departing in the ninth over, tried his best; so did Axar and Gurkeerat, but they could not stop Knight Riders from scripting a memorable win.