If anything saved the Kolkata Knight Riders from a debacle on Monday, it was Jacques Kallis calling it right at the toss. On a slow track, on which a match had already been played an hour ago, keeping the chase for the Auckland Aces against a potent slow-ball attack was the best bet. It went down
to the wire at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, and just two runs saw KKR moving ahead to practically seal a berth in the main draw.
KKR cricketers Manvinder Bisla (R) and Jacques Kallis talk during the Champions League Twenty20 qualifying cricket pool match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Auckland Aces at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
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A 6.9 earthquake that shook the north-east states, along with Kolkata, on Sunday. On Monday, it took exactly that many overs (45 balls) for the Aces to rattle up the Knights, who looked every bit the favourites billing given to them till then.
The Knights couldn't have asked for a better start from opener Manvinder Bisla.
Even when he fell in the 9th over, after hitting a 32-ball 45, the IPL team looked in control with Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and Manoj Tiwary to bat out the next 10 overs. But then came the earthquake. An outstanding catch in the deep, two superb run outs - and the shockwave seemed to be running through the KKR camp. What looked like a 170-plus total in the making, folded up with just a run-a-ball target for the Aces.
When KKR returned with the ball, they couldn't have asked for a better start. A yes-no in the mid-pitch - and Martin Guptill was found gasping to get back behind the lines. The Aces were down one wicket on the very first ball.
Experience came in the form of Lou Vincent who hit a patient 40 off 37 balls.
But this potboiler was far from over even when all that the Aces needed a paltry 60 runs from eleven overs with nine wickets in hand. Pathan struck twice in the 10th over. The Kiwis still tried to pull things back and with 22 to get off 12, it wasn't impractical too. Kallis had saved himself for the last and though he went for 11 runs, he got Colin Munro's all-important wicket. For Brett Lee, it was all about belting out six straight ones. And he did just that.