Gujarat Lions showed great application with the ball before Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan stitched together Kolkata Knight Riders’ third century partnership in the IPL to give them a decent total batting first at the Eden Gardens.
But a quick start, fashioned by Brendon McCullum (29) and Dwayne Smith (27) paved the way for a comfortable win for Gujarat Lions, who regained the top spot in the points table that was briefly held by Sunrisers Hyderabad after their win over Mumbai Indians earlier on Sunday. Chasing 158 for four, Lions reached 164 for five.
McCullum could have been snared earlier had the umpire heard the faint bottom edge off his bat against Andre Russell in the first over. But McCullum cashed in on that reprieve to mount an assault on Morne Morkel and lead Gujarat to 46 runs in their Powerplay phase.
For KKR however, Powerplays while batting first have rarely been about plundering runs. This time, they were further handicapped by a slew of dismissals following a good display of swing bowling by Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Smith. Gautam Gambhir was undone trying to glance Kumar, followed by a poke by Manish Pandey that was pouched by the wicket-keeper.
Robin Uthappa’s dismissal hurt KKR most. Well set with three boundaries, two through covers and one through fine leg due to a misfield, the onus was on Uthappa to ensure KKR didn’t slow down much. But Kulkarni dismissed him with a delivery that straightened after pitching, inducing the faintest edge off Uthappa’s bat.
By the time Suresh Raina plucked a superb catch off Suryakumar Yadav at first slip, KKR were running the risk of getting all out within their allotted overs.
Had Pravin Tambe held on to a tough catch from Shakib at third man in the seventh over, KKR could have been five down. But Shakib survived that scare to bat his way to some stability, mostly through hard-run singles. Pathan, on the other hand, never really showed much interest in trying to convert singles into twos. He was more intent on finding the right length that allowed him to swing his bat freely.
That opportunity came in the 10th over. Pathan opened up his stance against the twisting spin of Shivil Kaushik, first by taking the aerial route over the bowler’s head for a six and then a boundary through covers. That over, apart from bringing 14 runs, finally signalled a shift in attitude that brought KKR 101 runs in the next 60 deliveries. Pathan stuck to his plan but it was Shakib’s cheeky shots in the death overs that gave KKR a total worth defending.
McCullum though took little time to make the target appear smaller, especially after laying into Morkel, carting him for 17 runs in the seventh over. The Kiwi didn’t stay around for long but his innings gave Gujarat the freedom to set the pace of their chase.
Russell finally got a wicket in the form of Suresh Raina but it could have been two in two for him had Uthappa not grassed a difficult chance off Dinesh Karthik down the leg the previous delivery.
Karthik went on to score a well-compiled fifty, which, supported by a cameo from Aaron Finch, ensured Gujarat Lions won the match with two overs to spare.