Chennai 154-4 (20 ov)
Kolkata 156-2 (18 ov)
Toss: Kolkata, chose to field
Chennai: Raina 65, McCullum 28; Narine 1-24, Cummins 1-29
Kolkata: Uthappa 67, Shakib 46 not out; Jadeja 1-23, Pandey 1-31
Man of the match: Robin Uthappa (Kolkata)
Earlier in this year’s Indian Premier League, Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata Knight Riders captain, had said: “When things are going well, the toothbrush bristles stay straight and soft; when it isn’t, it seems the toothbrush has the out-of-the-bed look.”
One thing was certain at Eden Gardens yesterday, Kolkata’s bristles were as straight and soft as they could be. Riding on yet another stunning batting display from Robin Uthappa, Kolkata notched up an eight-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings with two overs to spare.
Having already sealed a spot in the play-offs after Royal Challengers Bangalore’s seven-wicket loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the day’s first match, Chennai could breathe easy.
But that would not stop Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men from attempting to end Kolkata’s four-match winning streak or strengthening their chances of finishing in the top two. It was not until later that Chennai realised Uthappa, who scored 67 from 39 balls with 10 boundaries and a six, was not going let either plan materialise.
Coming in to bat after Chennai had put up a modest 154 for four in 20 overs, Uthappa and Gambhir looked poised to scale the target on their own. While Gambhir chose caution, putting away bad deliveries and rotating the strike when the ball landed in the right areas, Uthappa was more a runaway freight train.
With absolutely no consideration as to who was bowling and what the field was, the Bangalorean, who has scored 47, 65, 47, 46, 80 and 40 runs in his past six innings, was relentless.
Uthappa – dropped on six by R Ashwin at first slip off Ben Hilfenhaus and on 24 by Suresh Raina off Mohit Sharma – was living a charmed life. But he made Chennai pay for those reprieves the way he knows best.
Striking the ball as sweetly as he has most of this season, Uthappa rushed to 42 before he lost his opening partner.
Having discarded his cautious veil, Gambhir looked a serious threat to Chennai but just when the 60,000-plus crowd was beginning to believe that their skipper would bat through, he inside edged a full delivery from Ishwar Pandey on to the stumps.
His Karnataka colleague Manish Pandey joined Uthappa in the middle and the pair quickly added 34 runs to push Chennai against the wall. Chennai, though, finally got what they were looking for when Uthappa smacked Ravindra Jadeja straight down the throat of Faf du Plessis at long-off, leaving Kolkata needing 57 runs from 50 balls.
Shakib Al Hasan came out next and the left-hander, after a cautious start, tore through Chennai’s bowling unit with a string of fours and sixes that carried him to an unbeaten 46 from 21 deliveries. All along, Pandey chose to sit back and watch his partners go berserk and Kolkata cantered to their fifth successive win.
Kolkata’s victory put them on par with Rajasthan Royals on 14 points but if Kolkata wins one of their two remaining league games, against Bangalore and Hyderabad, they will be guaranteed a spot in the play-offs.
Bangalore, despite their loss to Hyderabad, remain fifth on the table but only on net run-rate.