Brilliant opening acts have lit up this IPL but not many teams have as good a middle order as Kolkata Knight Riders. That spelt the difference between KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad and allowed Gautam Gambhir’s team a safe entry to the playoffs.
So silken was Robin Uthappa’s timing that the ball raced to the boundary every time it touched the bat to give KKR an explosive start. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s length helped. Instead of trying to find some swing by pitching the ball up, Uthappa received a slew of short ones that he was happy to dispatch.
He threw away the advantage by spearing a slower delivery from Barinder Sran. A two-paced pitch didn’t help Gambhir’s batting either. Till the time Manish Pandey joined Yusuf Pathan, KKR looked in danger of undoing their aggressive start.
Between the 10th and 12th overs, KKR didn’t hit a single boundary but by not losing any wicket they ensured the tail didn’t have to worry about batting. After Mustafizur Rahman conceded two boundaries in the 13th over, Pathan and Pandey put the pedal on the gas when Karn Sharma returned for another spell. Two huge sixes from Pathan and a boundary by Pandey ensured Sharma never came back to bowl his fourth over.
Hyderabad never gave themselves time to pace their chase after doing so well to restrict KKR to 171, when they were 141/3 at the end of the 15th over. That KKR had planned David Warner’s dismissal was evident in the way the Australia opener was stifled by spin. But Shikhar Dhawan almost played a free hand to bring up a 30-ball 51.
But either Naman Ojha’s slow batting or the mounting asking rate got to Dhawan, leaving Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh to carry forward the chase. A quiet grafter, Williamson was the foil needed for Yuvraj’s big hitting. But he got carried away and paid the price against Shakib al Hasan. Kuldeep Yadav, playing only his second match of this season, killed the game by dismissing Williamson the next over.