Four days ago here at Barabati, Glenn Maxwell had set the stands on fire with a 38-ball 90 against Chennai Super Kings. But Kolkata Knight Riders managed to get a grip on him, as well as David Miller, to notch up a comfortable nine-wicket win with two overs to spare.
KKR’s Robin Uthappa once again played an excellent hand, scoring 46 off 28 balls (8X4, 1X6) and ensuring that his team didn’t falter in a tricky chase. His promotion top of the order has given the side a kind of solidity that was missing in the first few matches. More importantly, Uthappa’s presence has helped Gautam Gambhir play without pressure and return to form. Today, Kolkata benefited from another good opening partnership as they raced to 68 in 6.5 overs before Uthappa holed out at deep midwicket off Parvinder Awana. But by then Kolkata had victory in sight and unlike their match against Rajasthan Royals, they didn’t choke.
Uthappa and Gambhir complemented each other very well. The former was the aggressor to start with and took the attack to the opposition with three boundaries in Sandeep Sharma’s second over. Then he turned his attention to Mitchell Johnson, taking 18 runs off him — a six and three fours — in the next over. That set Kolkata in motion.
3 ducks to 3 fifties
Gambhir took responsibility after his opening partner got out and guided his team over the line with an unbeaten 63 off 45 balls. It was his third half-century in three matches — some achievement given that the Kolkata captain had started the tournament with a hat-trick of ducks. Manish Pandey remained not out on 36.
But the chief architect of this win was a leg spinner who spun a web around the most destructive batting line-up of the tournament. Piyush Chawla was brought in for this game at the expense of medium pacer Vinay Kumar, and on a used wicket that assisted spin, the decision to include him turned out to be a masterstroke.
Chawla came on to bowl in the 11th over after Punjab were sent in by Gambhir. Maxwell was at the crease along with a well-set Virender Sehwag, and at 85 for two after 10, the stage was set for fireworks. But Chawla accounted for Maxwell with his third ball — an uppish slog-sweep that went straight to Morne Morkel at deep square leg.
Sehwag, however, was batting on his best IPL score this season, albeit being a tad bit scratchy. He had started off with four fours in the very first over of the match bowled by Jacques Kallis and was building on the momentum. In fact, despite not timing the ball very well and a couple of reprieves notwithstanding, was looking well poised for a big one.
A 50-ball 72 was his first IPL half-century in 18 innings but Chawla eventually got the better of him with a googly. Sehwag came down the track for a slog but was deceived in the air and the ball went on to hit the stumps off an inside edge. Then Chawla cleaned up Rishi Dhawan with a faster one to return with the figures of three for 19 in four overs.
The Miller threat was nullified by Umesh Yadav who castled the South African with a perfect off-cutter. Punjab could manage only three boundaries in their last five overs and finished at a below par 149 for eight. They also read the surface wrong to play only one specialist spinner.