Sizzling hot Robin Uthappa ensures Kolkata IPL’s third play-off berth

An unbeaten 83 by the opener and a daunting target of 196 proves too much for Royal Challengers Bangalore to scale.
DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – April 19 , 2014 : Robin Uthappa of KKR playing a shot in the IPL match between  Delhi Daredevils vs Kolkata Knight Riders at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by Paul
DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – April 19 , 2014 : Robin Uthappa of KKR playing a shot in the IPL match between Delhi Daredevils vs Kolkata Knight Riders at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by Paul

Kolkata 195-4 (20 ov)

Bangalore 165-5 (20 ov)

Toss: Bangalore, chose to field

Kolkata: Uthappa 83 not out, Shakib 60; Starc 1-32, Nechim 1-33

Bangalore: Takawale 45, Kohli 38; Narine 4-20

Man of the match: Robin Uthappa (Kolkata)

Robin Uthappa’s reputation of being one of the most destructive and stylish batsmen in this edition of the Indian Premier League took on a whole new dimension as the opener guided Kolkata Knight Riders to a facile 30-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.

The victory not only extended Kolkata’s winning streak to six on the trot, but also booked them a spot in the playoffs with 16 points from 13 games. Bangalore, who have ten points from the same number of matches, bowed out of the tournament.

Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad still have a chance to draw level with Rajasthan Royals on 14 points and bring the net run-rate into the equation.

But the Eden Gardens crowd cared little for the permutations and combinations that floated about at the end of the day. The only thing on their minds was Uthappa and his stunning assault of Bangalore’s bowlers.

The right-hander, who was brilliant in his 67-run knock against Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday (May 20), had not scored lesser than 40 in seven innings and was coming into this game with a lot of confidence.

Putting momentum to good use, he smacked Bangalore’s wayward bowlers en route to an unbeaten 83 from 51 balls with ten fours and a six. Uthappa’s innings earned him the Orange Cap after the Bangalorean overtook Glenn Maxwell, Kings XI Punjab middle-order batsman, with 572 runs at an average of 47.66.

While Uthappa was calculated in his aggression and stuck to playing in the ‘V’ for most of his innings, Shakib Al Hasan was in no mood to adhere to the technique. The left-hander’s 38-ball blitzkrieg yielded 60 runs. The duo added 121 runs from 70 balls.

On the back of those two memorable innings, Kolkata reached 195 for four in 20 overs.

Bangalore had a stiff task on their hands, and that despite two clinical overs from Ashok Dinda and Mitchell Starc in the end of Kolkata’s innings.

With the game and their campaign on the line, the going just got tougher for Bangalore.

Virat Kohli and Yogesh Takawale, who came in for Parthiv Patel, responded well to Kolkata’s bowling attack after they lost Chris Gayle early.

They added 85 runs to give Bangalore a glimmer of hope but they fell within two balls of each other to Sunil Narine. Kohli was caught by Morne Morkel for 38 runs and Takawale dragged the ball on to the stumps after scoring 45 runs from 36 balls, leaving Bangalore with 102 runs to get from 42 balls.

Yuvraj Singh entertained the crowd with some good hitting and AB de Villiers attempted to carve out another one of his specials, but both fell to Narine in the 17th over. The West Indian finished with brilliant figures of 4 for 20 from his four overs.

From then on, Bangalore had nothing left in their tank to deny the capacity crowd from celebrating their team’s second straight win at home.

Bangalore finished their stint with the bat at 165 for 5 in 20 overs and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third successive year.

Their batsmen have come under the scanner throughout this season, but this loss had little to do with their batting. Their downfall began when Kolkata’s batsmen got into the groove, and that was not until much later.

To kick things off, Bangalore seemed to have a grip on things as they sent back Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey in quick time. Gambhir, who got off the mark with a delicate flick off his pads to fine leg boundary, attempted to do the same in the fifth ball of the first over from Starc. Much to his dismay, he ended up flicking it to Takawale after having scored four runs.

Even as Uthappa was still settling in, Pandey put on quite the show with his aggressive brand of batting. But it was his aggression that cost him his wicket. Chasing a short and wide delivery from Dinda, Pandey struck it wide of Starc, who covered quite a distance to his right from the third man area and latched on to the ball to complete a great catch.

With two of Kolkata’s batsmen back in the hut, Bangalore would’ve felt in control. That control slowly slipped out of their hands as Yusuf Pathan put on a cameo like only he could.

Pathan smashed 22 runs from 13 balls with two sixes and a four before being run out by a throw from Kohli from cover.

Kolkata seemed to be suffering from a minor situation at 56 for 3, but Shakib joined Uthappa in the middle, and Bangalore were in for one of the most painful hidings they have received all season.

Uthappa was mellow from time to time but Shakib was menacing from the get-go. He was constantly on the lookout for boundaries, and Yuzvendra Chahal’s legspin was just what he was looking for. The Bangladeshi batsman hit the youngster for 24 runs in the 15th over. From there on, Kolkata never looked back.

Bangalore, on the other hand, had no choice but to look back on their campaign and wonder where they had gone wrong.

Roshan Thyagarajan is a correspondent with Wisden India. For more on IPL visit wisdenindia.com and follow them on Twitter at wisdenindia

Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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