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KKR live for another day

- Kallis’ all-round performance helps KKR beat RCB by 5 wickets
Jacques Kallis, on way to his 41, on Sunday. (PTI)

Ranchi: Korbo, lorbo, jeetbo has been a fading theme this season, but on Sunday, it sprang back to life. Gautam Gambhir’s men showed the zeal to stay focused in the closing stages as they kept their hopes for a play-off berth alive.

There were moments during Sunday’s chase when the match could have gone either way but the Kolkata Knight Riders hung on and didn’t let it slip away. Perhaps the defending champions were wiser by the experience and hell bent on not repeating the mistakes that have nearly ruined their campaign in IPL-VI.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their poor away record going — two wins in eight matches — while the Knight Riders continue to survive on ventilator support.

With 12 points from 14 matches, the Knight Riders will have to win their remaining two games and hope that the Royal Challengers and Sunrisers Hyderabad don’t add to their tally of 16 points. An improved run-rate in such a scenario will enable Shah Rukh Khan’s Knights to grab the remaining one slot for the play-offs.

Gautam Gambhir’s decision to bowl first seems to have worked in their favour as chasing certainly seemed to be a better option on the sluggish surface. The 116-run target wasn’t easy but Jacques Kallis exhibited the perfect application in pulling off a five-wicket victory.

Having choked the Royal Challengers run-making brigade, the Knight Riders found themselves in a hole when Manvinder Bisla played straight into the hands of gully off the second delivery of the innings.

Gambhir tried to bring some sanity with three consecutive boundaries off Abhimanyu Mithun’s first over but the assault was shortlived as he nicked into the hands of first slip.

Yusuf Pathan’s 18 off 16 balls kept the momentum going but it was turning out to be a Kallis show. After a superb spell of slow medium pace, Man of the Match Kallis showed why he’s regarded as one of the all-time best all-rounders.

He showed no urgency to go for his shots and waited for the loose deliveries. Having survived on 3, when Mithun misjudged a high catch in the deep, Kallis’ 41 off 45 balls kept the Knight Riders in the reckoning.

Manoj Tiwary succumbed to the pressure an over later and the Knight Riders needed 11 off the last two.

Ryan ten Doeschate and Rajat Bhatia took six off the penultimate over with five needed of the last. A single later, Ryan tonked Vinay Kumar straight over the bowler’s head for a boundary to bring off the winning runs with four balls remaining.

Ranchi’s IPL debut was certainly not as stupendous as the one experienced during the first ODI at the JSCA International Stadium nearly four months ago. There was only a smattering of supporters at the start and the rain threat since the morning only added to the shrinking spectator interest. There was also the Mahendra Singh Dhoni factor.

Away in Jaipur, the Chennai Super Kings captain missed the thrill and aura of his hometown. “Another big cricket match for Ranchi, beautiful stadium lovely wicket hope both the team entertain the people of Ranchi. I love my city,” tweeted Dhoni before the start.

Playing the final two ‘home’ matches in a different environment isn’t easy. For the Knight Riders, it could have been devastating, but thankfully, the conditions suited their slow bowlers.

Gambhir knew that their chances of survival depended on their ability to contain Chris Gayle. Relying mostly on spin and varying the length, they tried to curb Gayle’s extravagant ways, and it paid off.

Sachithra Senanayake (4-0-18-1) was superb and the ploy of opening the attack with the Sri Lankan off-spinner worked to their advantage. Gayle hardly showed the courage to step out as Senanayake kept him rooted to the crease.

It may have been the Knight Riders’ ‘home’ ground, but the crowd had come to watch Gayle. Once the Royal Challengers batsmen realised that stroke-making wasn’t going to be easy on this slow wicket, they simply were clueless. Even the singles and twos were hard to come by as the Knight Riders were brilliant with their catching and ground fielding. Bisla’s stumping of Gayle really stood out.

Lakshmipathy Balaji and Jacques Kallis were equally impressive, not to speak of Sunil Narine (4/22). Once the early damage was done, Narine just ran through the middle and lower order. The visitors were desperate for runs and Narine made full use of the circumstances.

The Royal Challengers batting once again showed that there is very little depth once the top-four departs.

With the big hits almost non-existent, Gayle tried to give the innings some momentum with a 31-run partnership with Virat Kohli off 25 balls.

But once Kohli (17) dragged Kallis’ wide delivery onto his stumps and Gayle departed a little later for 33 off 36 balls, the challenge seemed to fizzle out of the Royal Challengers camp.

The only time Gayle and Kohli threatened to do some damage was when they took 14 runs off a Ryan over. AB de Villiers’ brisk 28 wasn’t enough as none showed the ability to shoulder the responsibility after the departure of Gayle and Kohli.

For once, the Knight Riders didn’t disappoint as the batsmen complemented the bowlers’ effort.