Glenn Maxwell went a little too far across as he aimed the vacant leg-side boundary. But Umesh Yadav’s delivery was quick and it skidded off the surface to catch Maxwell plumb in front. With the fall of this particular wicket, in the eighth over of the Kings XI Punjab’s chase of 164, Kolkata Knight Riders had one foot in the final.
There was rain in the air and Punjab were playing catch up with the Duckworth and Lewis par score. They needed 62 after eight overs with eight wickets remaining. Maxwell’s departure reduced them to 55 for three and from there on it was always going to be a tough catch-up job for the visitors.
For Kolkata, there was still a small matter of getting rid of David Miller. Piyush Chawla took care of him with a sharp leg break that went through Miller’s defence to peg back the middle stump. Punjab’s two big guns could only manage 14 runs (Maxwell 6, Miller 8) between them and their team disintegrated to lose the Qualifier 1 by 28 runs.
Kolkata dominant, not rain
For Gautam Gambhir, the first piece of good news came around early afternoon when he was recalled to the Indian Test squad for the upcoming tour of England. And the Kolkata captain celebrated it by taking his team to their second IPL final in three years. Punjab, however, have a lifeline and will go to Mumbai to play Qualifier 2 on Friday.
Rain eventually relented to allow a full game on Wednesday and the capacity crowd got their money’s worth. Midway into Punjab’s innings, the fans started to dance in the aisles of Eden Gardens. The hosts were that dominant.
Kolkata had enough on the board after being sent in by George Bailey. Gambhir got out early, in the second ball of the second over, as he mistimed a pull off Mitchell Johnson. But Robin Uthappa was once again in prime form and scored 42 off 30 balls. It was his tenth 40-plus contribution in a row and in the process he also surpassed
Virat Kohli to hold the record of most runs scored in a single IPL season by an Indian. Kohli had 634, Uthappa now have 655 and has another game in hand. The opener’s 65-run partnership with Manish Pandey set Kolkata on course and they looked set for a very big total. But a double wicket maiden from left-arm spinner Akshar Patel – selected in the Indian ODI squad for the tour of Bangladesh — brought Punjab back into the contest.
Uthappa was holed out in the deep by Miller, while Pandey was bowled as the ball ricocheted off his shoulder on to the stumps. Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan then forged another good partnership.
Once again, Punjab bounced back with leg spinner Karanveer Singh dismissing Yusuf and Shakib in the same over. But some big hitting from Ryan ten Doeschate, Surya Yadav and Piyush Chawla took Kolkata to 163 on a wicket that played slow and low, and offered decent amount of turn. It proved to be enough.
Also, Punjab showed very little stomach for fight apart from Wriddhiman Saha’s 31-ball 35 and Manan Vohra’s pyrotechnics (26 off 19) up front. “Our batters were flustered by the rain thing and failed to execute the plans,” said coach Sanjay Bangar.
Kolkata signed off their home leg by doing a lap of honour. With eight wins on the bounce, their journey to Bangalore for the final was only an extension of their good form.