Opener Robin Uthappa once again led the way for the Kolkata Knight Riders as they easily booked their place in the Indian Premier League final with a comfortable 28-run victory over the Kings XI Punjab in their postponed first Qualifier match at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
KKR beat KXIP by 28 runs, qualify for finals:
Torrential rain in the Kolkata region had seen play called off without a ball being bowled on Tuesday, but the clouds made way for sunny skies on Wednesday morning and play began on schedule at 12:30 CAT.
Uthappa then laid the platform for the Knight Riders to post 163 for eight batting first with a quick-fire 42 from 30 balls, although good contributions throughout the middle order and a flurry of runs at the death were equally responsible for the potent total on a tricky pitch.
Punjab then failed to put the target of 164 under any real threat, as they limped to 135 for eight in their 20 overs in the face of some wonderfully disciplined Kolkata bowling.
Umesh Yadav was the pick of the KKR bowlers, as he picked up three for 13 in his four overs, although Morne Morkel also provided good value with figures of 4-0-23-2.
Only Wriddhiman Saha’s 31-ball innings of 35 offered much resistance for the table toppers, although left-arm spinner Akshar Patel had earlier performed brilliantly with the ball to return figures of 4-1-11-2.
The win for KKR – their eighth in succession – puts them safely into Sunday’s final in Bangalore, while the Kings XI Punjab will have a second opportunity to book their place in the showpiece when they take on the winner of today’s eliminator match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians on Friday.
The Punjab reply was dented as early as the second over, when Virender Sehwag’s (2) well-timed cut shot picked out the cover fielder, and at five for one, the momentum was firmly with Kolkata.
As the clouds closed in and the drizzle descended upon Eden Gardens, it appeared to become a race against time to get at least five overs in and thus a legitimate match.
Punjab spent much of that time behind the eight ball in terms of the Duckworth Lewis par score, but a trifecta of sixes from opener Manan Vohra (26) in the fifth and sixth overs took them well beyond the par score at that stage.
However, the equation changed considerably as he skied one to mid on from the bowling of Morkel, and when the talismanic Glenn Maxwell (6) was trapped in front in the eighth over after going too far across his stumps, the Kings XI were in all sorts of trouble at 55 for three.
The relentless drizzle finally abated, and Punjab began to steady the ship. But the respite was brief, as the promising Saha scooped one to mid off to give Morkel his second wicket, before David Miller (8), who survived a close LBW appeal and a tough dropped catch at point, was bowled by Piyush Chawla (4-0-23-1) to plunge the official hosts further into the mire at 82 for five in the 13th over.
The game looked to be petering out thereafter, as wickets fell and the slow bowling proved difficult to get away. Captain George Bailey (26) did eventually click into gear, and a couple of hefty blows gave his team a glimmer of hope as they reduced the victory target to 34 from two overs.
However, mystery spinner Sunil Narine (4-0-30-0) expertly snuffed out any twists that may have been forthcoming with a near-perfect penultimate over, and a delirious crowd celebrated a richly deserved victory for their team as Yadav finished the job..
Having been earlier asked to bat first on a pitch that had been under covers for more than 24 hours, Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir (1) added substance to predictions that it would be a low-scoring affair when his miscued pull shot from a Mitchell Johnson (4-0-31-2) short delivery was well caught by opposite number Bailey at mid-on in the second over.
But after the brief spell of pressure that ensued, the in-form Uthappa began to cut loose, and carved four boundaries and two sixes in quick succession to power Kolkata to 55 for one at the conclusion of the powerplay.
But after passing 40 for the 10th consecutive innings, he holed out to Miller at long off from the bowling of Patel in the ninth over. The left-arm spinner then castled the stumps of Manish Pandey (21) three balls later, and completed an exceptional double-wicket maiden to reduce Kolkata to 67 for three.
Some much needed consolidation was provided by the duo of Shakib Al Hasan (18) and Yusuf Pathan (20), with the latter taking the score past 100 with an almighty blow over the long-off boundary midway through the 14th over.
However, it was a double strike that would once again peg KKR back. The 41-run stand came to an end when Al Hasan’s mistimed swipe was well taken by Miller running around from long off. One delivery later, Miller had his third catch of the innings and bowler Karanveer Singh (4-0-40-3) found himself on a hat-trick as Pathan contrived to hole out in similar fashion.
A rain delay of 20 minutes followed, but, following the completion of the impressive Patel’s spell immediately after, it was Kolkata who seized the initiative, as Ryan ten Doeschate (17 from 10), Suryakumar Yadav (20 from 14) and Chawla (17 not out from nine) all produced invaluable cameos to add a priceless 49 runs in the final four overs.