Kolkata Knight Riders continued to sizzle with Robin Uthappa and Sunil Narine playing leading roles as they booked the IPL playoff berth after shutting doors on Royal Challengers Bangalore with a 30-run victory at the Eden Gardens.
Continuing his dream run Uthappa played the sheet anchor role in his unbeaten 83 from 51 balls (10×4, 1×6) in a 121 runs partnership from 70 balls with Shakib Al Hasan (60 from 38 balls; 5×3, 3×6) to help KKR post a towering 195/4.
This was Uthappa’s fifth half-century this season as with a tally of 572 runs, the KKR opener usurped the Orange Cap from Glen Maxwell (533), who was holding on to the pole since the start of season seven in Abu Dhabi on April 16.
Defending the massive total, off-spinner Sunil Narine joined the party and executed the role of wrecker-in-chief to perfection grabbing 4/20 to hand KKR a sixth successive win, a milestone they had only posted in their triumphant 2012 season.
After Umesh Yadav gave the breakthrough in Chris Gayle (6) who got out to a dubious lbw decision, Yogesh Takawale and Virat Kohli kept RCB in the hunt in their must-win match with an 85-run partnership but Narine struck twice in his third over scalping both the dangerman to keep them in check.
He returned the same way in his fourth over this time claiming another two prized sclaps of Yuvraj Singh (22) and AB de Villiers (13) to turn the match around.
In fact Narine did not do badly in following Uthappa, though in the leading wicket takers tally as he remained one away from Purple Cap holder Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s (Sunrisers Hyderabad) tally of 20.
KKR were reduced to 56/3 in the seventh over at the sun bathed Eden Gardens after Virat Kohli put the home team up front but Uthappa defied the heat to take the attack to the opposition.
Shakib Al Hasan played a perfect ally and was more brute at the other end as the Bangladeshi all-rounder spanked 38-ball 60 and the duo put together 121 runs from 70 balls for the fourth wicket to stage a remarkable recovery against a frail RCB bowling attack.
Gautam Gambhir (4) was dismissed on the fifth ball of the day when the southpaw edged one to be safely gloved by wicketkeeper Yogesh Takawale, while local lad Dinda claimed Manish Pandey (13) at the other end.
Promoted, Yusuf Pathan made his intentions clear by hitting Abu Nechim to a first-ball four and struck sixes off Muttiah Muralitharan and Yuvraj Singh but his innings was cut short with a freak run out when his bat was inside the crease, but was in the
Thankfully for KKR, Uthappa was steady at the other end. He went on to complete his second half-century in a row in 34 balls.
In-form Uthappa played the full 20 overs and slammed 10 fours and a six during his undefeated knock while Shakib struck five boundaries and three sixes. Shakib smashed rookie leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal for three sixes and a boundary as KKR stole 24 runs in an over.
Interestingly, Uthappa has not scored less than 40 runs after he was promoted at the top of the order when KKR’s India leg began at Ranchi. His tally in the eight matches read: 475.
Uthappa and Shakib exposed RCB’s bowling frailty. Local man Ashok Dinda was wayward, while the spin attack in Muttiah Muralitharan, Chahal and Yuvraj Singh could not make any inroads.
Chahal was the most expensive bowler, leaking 50 runs from his quota, while Yuvraj conceded 21 from his two overs.