In the end,it was about Yusuf Pathan and the drama surrounding his dismissal. The burly middle-order batsman,whose performances had fallen well short of expectations till this point of the season,at last found his mojo and was playing a blinder after Kolkata Knight Riders were reduced to 29 for three in pursuit of 171 to stay alive in the tournament.
Pathan had reached 72 (his first half century in IPL-6) in 43 balls and was wading into Wayne Parnells bowling in the 18th over. He had already hit two fours and a six before going for an improbable single off the fifth ball. Debabrata Das,who was at the non-strikers end,wasnt interested but Pathan kept on going while Parnell sprang from his follow through to try and effect the run out.
Suddenly Pathan chose to do a Cristiano Ronaldo as he pushed the ball with the inside of his right foot to put it out of the bowlers reach. He was declared out,obstructing the field,on referral. It was a sad end to an very enterprising innings and spelled curtains for the defending champions. Till this game they had a mathematical chance to get into the play-offs,but this defeat ended their hopes.
Turning it around
A target of 171 was never going to be easy on this slow and low pitch at the JSCA International Cricket Complex. But Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate threatened to take the game away from Pune Warriors with their 98-run fourth wicket partnership in 67 balls. The former was allowed to get back to form by some very mediocre bowling and fielding. Ten Doeschate too played brilliantly for his 42 off 30 balls before he was run out.
Together they took their team to the threshold of victory. In fact,with just 49 runs to get in the last five overs,Kolkata might well have been favourites to win this contest. But once again they choked on the home stretch.
Earlier,it was a Manish Pandey show. The final over of the Pune innings brought they best out of the youngster. He late cut a Kallis yorker for four,and improvised beautifully to pick a length ball from wide outside off stump and place it through an almost non-existent gap between short fine leg and square leg for another boundary. It was scintillating stuff. An exciting young prospect was taking on an old master,and was toying with his bowling.
Pandey has always been rated highly in domestic cricket. But hes been very inconsistent in the IPL. Before this match,he had scored just 60 runs in five innings this season. But when he gets going he can make life difficult for the opposition. And on Wednesday,his innings turned out to be a match-winning effort.
Kolkata won the toss and decided to bowl first. Maybe the win against Royal Challengers Bangalore last Sunday prompted Gautam Gambhir to stick to the same formula. Kolkata had restricted Bangalore to a very modest 115 in that game. But this pitch was a little different. It played true to start with before getting slower and lower as the game progressed.
Pune made four changes to their XI that lost to Mumbai in the last match and were off to a good start. Captain Aaron Finch was striking the ball well and although Sunil Narines introduction to the attack stemmed the flow of runs,Finchs 48 in 32 balls ensured that his team had the right platform for a late assault. His partnership with Pandey yielded 56 runs in 43 balls for the second wicket and after his departure,his junior partner took over.
Yuvraj Singh struggled against Narine and took seven balls to get off the mark,but ended his innings with a strike rate of 150. After settling down,he forged a 65-run partnership in 46 balls with Pandey,which took the total to 170.
Brief scores: PWI 170/4 (M Pandey 66,A Finch 48; S Senanayake 1/22,J Kallis 1/48) bt KKR 163/7 (Y Pathan 72,Doeschate 42; I Pandey 1/17,B Kumar 1/22)