Kolkata Knight Riders exhibited its exemplary team work when it mattered the most to beat a formidable Sunrisers Hyderabad by 22 runs and move into the Indian Premier League (IPL) play-offs at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
The host banked on a fabulous 49-ball 87-run partnership between Yusuf Pathan (52 not out) and Manish Pandey (48) to register a fighting171 for six and then its pack of spinners, led by Sunil Narine who captured three wickets, stopped SRH at 149 for eight. It’s eighth win helped two-time champion KKR complete its league engagements on a high in front of its loyal fans.
There were two significant comebacks from both sides after SRH put KKR in. Propelled by opener Robin Uthappa’s early onslaught, a 17-ball 25, studded with three delectable boundaries in the opening over by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, KKR got off to a superb start.
KKR’s joy was short-lived as it lost Uthappa, Colin Munro and Gautam Gambhir in the fourth, sixth and eighth overs. All of them got out attempting big shots. The Pathan-Pandey pair then took the fight to the opponent’s camp, hitting some lusty blows. Showing a lot of common sense, they worked the ball around when the bowlers bowled tidy lines.
Pathan and Pandey progressed at an even pace and chose Karn Sharma for special treatment with each of them clubbing the leg-spinner for consecutive sixes. KKR lost momentum when Pandey was brilliantly caught by Kane Williamson at point in Bhuvneshwar’s return spell.
Even as Pathan, who scored his third half-century, hung on till the end, SRH staged a fightback primarily due to its pacers’ exceptional showing on a slow pitch. Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur employed their cutters well as SRH conceded only 30 runs in the last five overs.
KKR’s response was well-planned. Aiming to restrict the destructive SRH skipper, it manned the David Warner’s strong areas, inviting him to play big shots. The plan succeeded as Warner fell to Narine immediately after pulling the West Indian for a terrific six.
Shikhar Dhawan shouldered the responsibility and scored a stroke-filled half-century (51 off 30b) but chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, playing his first match in more than a month, brought some relief by dismissing Dhawan.
The spinners pounced on the opportunity as the tacky track offered some turn. The wily Narine claimed Naman Ojha, the experienced Shakib removed Yuvraj Singh and the impressive Kuldeep scalped Williamson.
With the asking rate mounting sharply, the writing was on the wall for SRH.