True to its nature, the Eden Gardens track produced a low-scoring thriller, at the end of which the Kolkata Knight Riders came out victorious by five wickets against the Rajasthan Royals. Spinners made merry, accounting for seven out of the ten wickets that fell in the match. This was KKR’s second consecutive win and RR’s second straight loss in DLF IPL 2012.
Chasing 132 on a turning track was always going to be a tricky task, even for a power-packed batting line-up like that of KKR. In Gautam Gambhir (11) and Jacques Kallis (31) the hosts had the best opening pair for such a situation. The duo got their team off to a positive start without taking undue risks.
However, a brilliant direct hit by RR skipper Rahul Dravid sent Gambhir packing in the fourth over. Manvinder Bisla (29) joined Kallis in weathering the storm with a 48-run stand. It broke when Johan Botha got his fellow South African out lbw during one of his many attempts to play the sweep shot.
Bisla held the fort with a run-a-ball 29 before Ashok Menaria frustrated him for runs and prompted him to go for a big heave over cover, which fell in the waiting hands of Ajinkya Rahane. Manoj Tiwary was the next to fall after an attacking 24 off 18 balls. He was done in by a wrong ‘un from Brad Hogg.
The Knight Riders required 24 runs off the final three overs with two new men at the crease. The good thing for them was they were Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan – two men capable of turning the game on its head.
Shakib took the pressure off the hosts by sweeping Siddharth Trivedi for a boundary off the first ball. He went one better in the penultimate over by striking a flat six before holing out in the covers. Known for his powerful hitting, Yusuf showed a glimpse of his delicate touch by guiding the last ball of the 19th over to the third-man fence for four. The scores were levelled and KKR needed one run to win in the last over; Ryan ten Doeschate sealed it with a six.
The RR innings was opened by perhaps, the most classical opening pair in the IPL – Dravid and Rahane – who once again defied the logic of Twenty20 being a hit and giggle format. They danced down the track and swept against spinner Sunil Narine, while L Balaji and Kallis were cut and driven. With some delightful cricketing shots, the two put up 45 runs in six overs.
With the RR openers going strong, KKR captain Gambhir gave the ball to Shakib Al Hasan in the seventh over. What followed was mini-carnage and the visitors lost three men – Rahane, Ashok Menaria and Dravid – for four runs. Shakib removed both RR openers by exploiting the turn and bounce in the wicket.
The Royals’ go-to guy with the bat so far, Owais Shah (31), once again stood tall. He steadied the RR ship with a sedate 58-run partnership with Shreevats Goswami (24). Shakib struck for the third time to remove Goswami and finished with fine figures of 3 for 17 in his four overs.
Shortly after that, Narine got Shah stumped with a wrong ‘un. It was in the 19th over, when the West Indian off-spinner conceded three runs for a wicket. However, Johan Botha and Brad Hodge creamed Lakshmipathy Balaji for 15 runs in the final over to take RR to a competitive 131.