Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders overcame a batting horror in the second over to register a morale-boosting six-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab in the 35th match of the IPL-VI here at Eden Gardens on Friday. Down in the dumps with five defeats from seven matches, hosts KKR received a new lease of life with a much-needed win and kept their slender chances of making it to the play-offs alive.
Three players were the architects of the win — man of the match Jacques Kallis who picked up two wickets and a 33-ball 37; keeper -batsman Manvinder Bisla who anchored the innings with an unbeaten 51 (44 balls, 3x4, 3x6) and in-form Eoin Morgan who finished it off with a destructive 42 (26 balls, 3x4, 4x6).
Chasing a competitive total of 150, KKR clinched victory with 10 balls to spare.
Ironically, the winning run came off a no ball, bowled by Harmeet Singh. But the home team were in dire straits, losing two wickets in successive balls in the second over. In-form captain Gautam Gambhir, who was upset after Lakshmipathy Balaji leaked 18 runs in the final over, threw his wicket away attempting a wild swing against medium-pacer Azhar Mahmood. In the next ball, Yusuf Pathan fell edging an outswinger.
But Bisla — who didn’t play the previous two matches — and Kallis rescued the team from that critical situation, stitching together 66 runs for the third wicket.
After Kallis departed, edging Harmeet Singh to Gilchrist, Bisla added 72 runs for the fourth wicket with Morgan to carry KKR to the doorsteps of victory.
After a competent batting performance, Kings XI lost the match because of their lackluster bowling and poor fielding.
Two dropped catches cost them dear. In the second over, Mandeep Singh dropped Bisla while Bhargav Bhatt spilled one from Morgan in the 17th over.
Earlier, electing to bat on a slow wicket, Punjab compiled a competitive total of 149 for six with the top order getting decent scores. They mixed caution with aggression. It was a welcome sight for Punjab that an out-of-form Gilchrist made a run-a-ball 27. Before the start, he received a 3-1 vote in favour of him continuing to lead the side. Gilly, who survived a run-out scare in the first over, gave KXIP a steady start putting on 45 runs with Mandeep, who hit 25 before falling to Kallis.
The Punjab side managed only 29 runs in the last five overs. The 18th and 19th overs, bowled by Sunil Narine and Kallis respectively proved crucial as Punjab scored just five runs and lost two wickets.
But Balaji spoilt the goodwork giving away 18 in the last over with Gurkeerat Singh smashing him for two sixes and a four. Gambhir was annoyed and was seen reprimanding the bowler.