Kolkata Knight Riders starting to hit their stride in IPL

Having gone through a tough phase in the early stages of this year’s Indian Premier League, Kolkata continued a remarkable turnaround by winning their fourth match in a row, this time against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Robin Uthappa of Kolkata Knight Riders finished with 40 to set up the chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday night. Pawan Singh / The National
Robin Uthappa of Kolkata Knight Riders finished with 40 to set up the chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday night. Pawan Singh / The National

The Kolkata Knight Riders proved that “peaking at the right time” is not just another cricket cliche. Having gone through a tough phase in the early stages of this year’s Indian Premier League, Kolkata continued a remarkable turnaround on Sunday night, winning their fourth match in a row, this time against Sunrisers Hyderabad, to take a massive step toward the play-offs.

The mid-table clash at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium was always a potential booby-trap for Kolkata. Hyderabad could have given their own play-off aspirations a massive lift had they secured victory. However, they could only put in another poor batting performance as Kolkata won by seven wickets to consolidate the fourth spot.

With Darren Sammy taking up the captaincy to relieve Shikhar Dhawan, Hyderabad opted to bat, but ended up with a paltry 142 for eight. That they put up as much was largely down to David Warner, who blasted an 18-ball 34, and Irfan Pathan, whose late unbeaten 19-ball 23 helped prevent a complete collapse.

Kolkata came up against a spirited start from the Hyderabad bowlers, but once the batsmen bided their time and took the sting out of the attack, there only was one winner. The consistent Robin Uthappa scored 40 to set up the chase before Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, who returned to form with an unbeaten 28-ball 39, and Ryan ten Doeschate helped complete the chase, Hyderabad doing well to take the match to the third-to-last delivery.

Faced with a seemingly easy chase, Kolkata started with caution, but the crowd, largely quiet after Hyderabad’s poor batting performance, were in a tizzy when Dale Steyn had Gautam Gambhir dismissed after seemingly inducing an edge, although replays proved inconclusive. It was not pretty to watch Gambhir walking back enraged, throwing his bat and gloves to the ground.

Things proceeded slowly. Uthappa looked solid and set in the middle, after Dhawan dropped him when he was on nine. Uthappa was more prudent thereafter, as he rotated the strike with Pandey.

Against the run of play, however, Kolkata were dealt a blow. Uthappa, looking for a single after prodding down leg, was run out after sharp work by Sammy.

With Yusuf Pathan walking in, Pandey took the initiative. And there flowed three boundaries off his willow, one of them an effortless loft over extra cover for six, as Amit Mishra came in for a hammering. Steyn returned as the required rate dropped, but Pandey and Yusuf were unfazed, rotating the strike and picking off the runs with minimum fuss.

Pandey holed out late on, but Yusuf and Ten Doeschate took Kolkata across the line.

The Hyderabad batsmen looked nothing like the bunch that had put up 205 for five against Kings XI Punjab in their previous game. Kolkata’s spin trio of Sunil Narine (1-21), Shakib Al Hasan (2-22) and Piyush Chawla (1-24) stifled them throughout.

Hyderabad started steadily enough, reaching 40 for one in five overs – Aaron Finch holed out early – and looked good to launch an assault. Dhawan, in particular, looked in good nick with his delicate cuts and well-placed drives. However, Narine’s arrival brought about Dhawan’s end as he miscued a slog sweep. Naman Ojha, who had carted two huge sixes, was dismissed by Shakib and Hyderabad were reduced to 64 for three.

KL Rahul then joined Warner in the middle, and for a while, Hyderabad held the upper hand. Boundaries increased in frequency and the two added 34 off 25 balls for the fourth wicket, before Chawla threw a spanner in the works, trapping Rahul plumb in front. When Warner then fell to Umesh Yadav, caught at cover, Hyderabad were 104 for five.

It brought Sammy in to partner Irfan, but the two could not accelerate sufficiently. In the last five overs, all of 33 runs were scored and three wickets lost.

Manoj Narayan is a staff writer at Wisden India. Visit wisdenindia.com for more on the IPL.

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Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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