Sourav Ganguly had given up on a semi-final spot on Sunday itself when the Chennai Super Kings beat Kings XI Punjab. But the captain wanted the Kolkata Knight Riders to end their campaign on a high and got his wish at Eden Gardens on Monday night. This was the first time they beat Mumbai Indians in three editions of the competition. Seven wins didn't ensure survival but this was also the maximum they managed in the IPL.
Ganguly scored 42 off 36 to take his tournament total to 493 — the third highest, behind Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis — as the Knights beat a second-string Mumbai Indians by nine wickets to give their fans something to cheer about.
Despite the Knight Riders having little chance of progressing to the semi-finals following Sunday's results, the fans filled Eden Gardens in large numbers one last time this IPL.
What kept the early birds occupied before the toss was the composition of the Mumbai Indians' XI. "I can see Zaheer Khan. He's wearing shorts and batting," shouted a young fan in a Mumbai Indians jersey as the teams practiced in the middle. Soon his imagination brought Tendulkar to Eden Gardens while his brother, wearing the Knight Riders' colours, thought he could see Harbhajan Singh.
In fact, five first-team players of the Mumbai Indians, including Tendulkar, Harbhajan and Zaheer, did not even make the trip to Kolkata. In the absence of Tendulkar, West Indian allrounder Dwayne Bravo stepped in as captain and made an immediate impact.
What he did was call correctly at the toss and choose to bat. And that, the mathematically inclined told all and sundry, made the home team's chances of progressing almost non-existent. The equation was simpler if the hosts had batted first, because then they would have just had to win by 170-odd runs to pip the Royal Challengers Bangalore on net run rate and snatch the last semi-final spot.
The Knight Riders, though, still had a few small battles to win and the bowlers got down to business right away. You could not call the atmosphere inside the stadium electric, but the crowd still roused itself to cheer Shane Bond's early wickets.
And in a blustery late evening, the fans broke into strains of ‘Korbo lorbo jitbo re’ even before the DJ could play the Knights' theme song when Jaidev Unadkat flattened JP Duminy's stumps.
Saurabh Tiwary fell four short of a fifty before Ambati Rayudu at No. 7 hit 27 off 15 to ensure the total went past 130. In the end, it was not enough.