|Yusuf Pathan, on way to his 39 not out in Hyderabad, on Sunday. (PTI)
Hyderabad: Six victories in 11 matches, but they haven’t played a single match at their home ground, Eden Gardens so far — the Kolkata Knight Riders have earned a lot of respect for themselves.
The Knights had conquered Delhi and Cuttack, on Sunday they added Hyderabad to that list. And the Gautam Gambhir-led team did it in style at the jam-packed Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
The seven-wicket victory over the Sunrisers Hyderabad, that came with two balls to spare, was the Knights’ fourth on the trot. With 12 points from 11 outings, they are now firmly in the race for a place in the play-offs.
The defeat, on the other hand, put the Sunrisers very much on the back-foot. The franchise’s decision to change their captain didn’t help change their fortunes as they succumbed to their third consecutive defeat. Neither the new captain Darren Sammy, nor the man he replaced, Shikhar Dhawan, could contribute much to the Sunrisers’ cause.
In fact, the home team were very clumsy on the field, dropping catches at crucial moments of the match.
There were some tense moments when Dale Steyn bowled a tight 19th over to leave the Knights with 10 runs to score from the final over to reach the target of 143.
Just a single was scored off the first delivery of the 20th over, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but Ryan ten Doeschate slammed a six off the very next ball to make the equation easier for the Knights. A couple was scored off the third delivery before Ten Doeschate thrashed a boundary down the ground to score the winning runs.
Yusuf Pathan, who finally played a part in the team’s victory, remained not out on 39 off 28 balls while Doeschate was unbeaten on 25 off 15 deliveries.
The Knights were truly the deserving winners as they outplayed the Sunrisers in every department of the game. They first bowled exceptionally well on a track that produced more than 400 runs in the previous match and then batted sensibly to overtake the home team’s total of 142 for eight.
Chasing was not an easy task, especially after losing in-form Gambhir in the second over to Steyn. Gambhir felt he did not touch the ball, but the umpire thought he nicked it and was adjudged caught behind. A furious Gambhir threw away his bat and gloves after he reached the dug-out.
The presence of Robin Uthappa, however, was assuring for the Knights. Having emerged as a huge success with the bat in IPL VII, Uthappa played rather cautiously in the initial overs and then went for big shots. His 33-ball 40, with five fours and one six had only one blemish when he gave a chance in the sixth over, off the bowling of Steyn. But Dhawan made a mess of it.
The rather unfortunate run out of Uthappa in the 10th over did put the Knights under some pressure. As the bat slipped out of his hand, Uthappa knew he was out and walked off immediately.
However, the Knights didn’t panic and the task was duly completed by Manish Pandey (35 off 32 balls), Pathan and Ten Doeschate.
The Sunrisers hardly did anything to justify their decision to bat first after winning the toss. Barring David Warner, none of their batsmen could accelerate the run rate. Once Warner departed, the situation worsened for the home side as they could add only 33 runs in the last five overs.
The credit would go to the Knights’ bowlers. In fact, the Sunrisers’ total would have been even less if their fielding was tighter.
If Umesh Yadav was the pick of the lot with three wickets, not far behind were Sunil Narine, Shakib-al Hasan and Piyush Chawla. They bowled economically and made up for the disappointment of Morne Morkel, who gave away 39 runs in his four overs.
Yadav, who opened the bowling with the South African, finished with three for 26.
The man who stood tall among Sunrisers batsmen was Warner. His 34 runs were studded with three boundaries and two breathtaking sixes, one of which landed on the second tier of the stadium. But the Aussie lasted only 18 deliveries before his hard front foot pull off Yadav was taken smartly at the midwicket by Pathan.
The departure of Warner in the 14th over, the fifth wicket to fall in the Sunrisers’ innings, left the home side without a quality batsman to take charge of the situation. Sammy, the newly appointed captain, was nowhere near his best. His 16-ball struggle produced just seven runs.
Dhawan was relieved of his captaincy so that he could concentrate on his batting. He made a promising start on Sunday by banging a four off the first ball he faced from Morkel in the opening over. But he lasted only 14 deliveries. Clearly, the Sunrisers will have to do more than just changing the captain.