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High five for high-flying Kolkata Knight Riders

Calcutta: Shah Rukh Khan wasn’t there at the Eden on Tuesday but that didn’t stop the Kolkata Knight Riders from putting in another clinical performance as IPL action returned to the city.

The near full-house was witness to some engrossing moments as the Knight Riders improved on their dismal record against the Super Kings with an eight-wicket victory. This was their fifth win on the trot and took them another step closer to making the play-offs.

Royal Challengers Bangalore are next up for the Knight Riders and their loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad in an earlier match on the day was another positive for Gautam Gambhir’s men.

The Knight Riders now have 14 points from 12 matches.

The Knight Riders’ chase has followed a pattern during the tournament: the openers laying a solid foundation and the middle-order complementing their efforts. If Robin Uthappa was flamboyant at the top, Shakib-al Hasan provided the fireworks towards the close.

Uthappa took upon himself the task of accelerating the innings while Gambhir was content with playing second fiddle. Making most of the two lives he got on 6 and 24, he went about his task in unbridled fashion, picking the gaps with élan.

None of the bowlers managed to curb his attacking ways and he batted as if he was adept at playing on their home turf. While the Super Kings top-order took time to adjust to the conditions, Uthappa looked relaxed while maintaining a steady scoring rate.

Uthappa showed during the 64-run opening partnership that he was willing to take responsibility, but much like the match against Mumbai Indians, departed just when he looked in control.

His 67 off 39 balls, though, had given the innings the momentum in their chase of 155.

Shakib and Manish Pandey showed during an unbroken 58-run stand that the middle-order could be relied upon as they approach the play-offs. Shakib’s 46 not out off 21 balls included 17 off one Ben Hilfenhaus over.

It was only apt that the winning runs came off Shakib’s bat with two overs remaining.

Team selection does play a big role in this format and the Chennai Super Kings made the cardinal mistake of including three pacers on a wicket that had very little pace on offer. It showed in their performance as the Knight Riders profited from their team selection and judicious batting.

The grass cover on the wicket had made both captains unsure about its behaviour. Gambhir didn’t risk taking first strike saying he had never seen so much of grass during his three years with the Knight Riders, Dhoni felt it had some moisture.

“I think they were worried about the ball keeping low… That’s the reason so much of grass has been retained,” reasoned the Super Kings captain.

“It’s because of the grass that the wicket has retained some moisture. When you walk with your spikes on, it is a bit sticky…”

The wicket though played true to its slow and low nature, aiding the spinners. The Knight Riders wisely stuck to their three-spinner formula and did well to restrict the big hits.

They choked the Super Kings’ run-scoring ways with only 62 coming off the first 11 overs. It wasn’t easy with the ball stopping and coming on to the bat and Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina did well to show patience and discipline.

Having a silly point in a T20 match is a luxury, but Gambhir could even afford to position himself there for a while when Faf du Plessis was batting.

The only time McCullum seemed like going back to his slam-bang tactics was when he hammered 16 runs off one Pat Cummins over. It was mainly because of Suresh Raina’s 65 off 52 balls, along with cameos from Dhoni (21 not out off 15 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (9 not out off 4 balls) that the Super Kings reached 155.

Raina’s was a superb knock considering the circumstances. He was determined to stay put and waited for the loose deliveries to go over the top. There were five sixes in his innings, including two in one Piyush Chawla over.

Raina was not afraid to step out against Sunil Narine showing the right temperament for these conditions.

He was involved in a run-a-ball 55-run partnership with McCullum after the early dismissal of Dwayne Smith. The opener was cleaned up by debutant Cummins when he misjudged the line in the second over.