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Knights stand tall

- Captain’s 63 n.o., Uthappa’s 46 in 9-wicket win

Cuttack: Kings XI Punjab have been on a roll in IPL VII. But the Kolkata Knight Riders trampled Preity Zinta’s men down on Sunday.

Korbo, lorbo, jeetbo re is no more a fading theme. It’s bustling and ruptured triumphantly at the Barabati Stadium as the Knight Riders brought the high-flying Kings XI to the ground under the glowing lights.

“Where are you Shah Rukh, your boys are on song,” screamed a poster to the left of the VIP enclosure where Preity was sitting.

For those who thought Knight Riders’ victory over Delhi DareDevils was a flicker, better watch out! The determination and the desperation to reach the business end of the tournament are driving Gautam Gambhir’s men to achieving bigger things.

They hardly put a foot wrong against Kings XI. They bowled and fielded brilliantly against the table-toppers and then batted with elegance to notch up a nine-wicket victory with two overs remaining.

The target of 150 looked easy once Gambir and Robin Uthappa gave them a rollicking start. Uthappa’s bold 46 off 28 balls, including a top-edged six off one Mitchell Johnson over in which he took 18, decimated Kings XI’s challenge and restored confidence in their ranks.

Once Uthappa departed, Gambhir ensured the momentum wasn’t lost. One important aspect of Knight Riders’ success in 2012 was Gambhir’s batting. It bodes well for the team that he’s found his lost touch at the right time.

While Manish Pandey provided solid support with an unbeaten 36, Gambhir guaranteed there were no slip-ups during the unbroken 82-run partnership. The Knight Riders captain’s 63 not out off 45 balls showed that he’s still cut out for the big league.

Gambhir’s useful innings overshadowed a superb Virender Sehwag show. The Kings XI opener was at his charismatic best, gliding past point, deftly flicking off his toes and never missing an opportunity to score. His was a determined and responsible effort, without being overtly aggressive or defensive.

Sehwag batted with the profligacy of a millionaire at a casino during the Powerplay overs, but waited for the loose deliveries while putting a price tag on his wicket as the innings progressed. Having survived on 23, when Uthappa failed to get his hands to a sharp chance off Morne Morkel, he enthralled the near full-house with an array of improvised drives and pulls reaching 72 in 50 balls.

Much like their previous meeting in the UAE when Maxwell was bowled for 15 off 12 and Miller managed 14, Kings XI’s middle-order failed to make use of the good start provided by Sehwag.

Morne Morkel bowled a superb opening spell, but Sehwag’s brilliance took Kings XI to 85 for two after 10. The Knight Riders benefited from their spinning duo and did well to pull things back conceding only 64 in the last 10.

The Knight Riders’ ploy of attacking Maxwell with Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla while not bowling too close to his body left the Australian in sheer discomfort and it showed during his run-a-ball 14.

Miller, too, never found the going easy in his 13 off 14 balls. Playing across the line to the spinners only compounded the batsmen’s problems.

If the spinners stuck to their task, Gambhir too managed them brilliantly. He was undaunted even after Sehwag slammed four boundaries off Kallis in the opening over. He got Narine into the attack in the seventh over once Maxwell took strike and Chawla three overs later.

Chawla once again proved to be the trump card. His inclusion didn’t come as a surprise considering his success against the same opponents in the previous match.

The leg spinner’s variations and subtle change of pace left the batsmen struggling when the need of the hour was to accelerate. His three for 19 in the middle overs halted the Kings XI’s progress.

If Narine left the two Ms dazed at one end, Chawla reaped the benefits at the other. It was only towards the end that Johnson somewhat spoiled Narine’s figures, but by then the damage had already been done.