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Knights’ purple patch

Calcutta: If Shah Rukh Khan’s Knights ruled Eden Gardens, there was no stopping the Badshah too. For most part of the evening, he was delirious in the balcony of the Kolkata Knight Riders hospitality box, clapping, gyrating, whistling and dancing.

As he stepped on to the Eden turf, he did a somersault before embracing the players and doing a round of the ground. There was a silent promise to replicate the wild celebrations of 2012 if they regain the trophy in Bangalore on Sunday.

If Wednesday was about the Knight Riders’ record eighth win on the trot in a single edition and their march to the IPL VII final, it was also about SRK’s presence.

He has always lamented missing the affection and warmth of the people of the city because of his shooting commitments. But as the dark clouds dispersed in time, the superstar was present to witness Knight Riders’ demolition of Kings XI Punjab by 28 runs in Qualifier 1.

The Knight Riders bid goodbye to the Eden, and didn’t forget to thank the crowd while taking a victory lap of the stadium. In between, SRK consoled Preity Zinta and his team.

The Knight Riders’ second entry into the final has surely been more intimidating and commanding, not to mention the consistency, which has been their hallmark.

The target of 164 was never going to be easy considering the Knight Riders’ bowling and their mastery over the wicket. In effect, the Kings XI were never in the chase since losing Virender Sehwag in the second over.

With Glenn Maxwell and David Miller coming a cropper, there was none to take the responsibility of anchoring their innings.

Umesh Yadav and Morne Morkel did the star turn and were well complemented by the spinners.

Kings XI were always behind the par score under the D/L method, after the first five overs. While trying to keep a tab on the required run rate because of the rain threat, they threw discipline to the winds and committed hara-kiri that hastened their demise.

That in no way will undermine the Knight Riders’ superb performance with the ball. Morkel worked up appreciable pace from this slow wicket and Umesh’s control and accuracy was enviable.

Morkel (2/23) removed the explosive Manan Vohra, who smashed two sixes off Shakib-al Hasan and then dismissed Wriddhiman Saha. The local boy scored 35 off 31 balls.

Umesh (3/13) then got into the act accounting for Maxwell and George Bailey. His opening spell of two for 12 off three overs stalled the Kings XI in their path.

Kings XI’s decision to leave out Sandeep Sharma and persist with Parvinder Awana and Rishi Dhawan didn’t make much sense as they gave away too many loose balls making the batsmen’s task easier.

Bailey’s decision to field was prompted by the fact that his bowlers could get some help from moisture on the wicket that had remained covered for a long time.

Like in the previous matches, the Knight Riders’ innings revolved around Robin Uthappa, but his dismissal in the ninth over did affect the momentum somewhat until useful contributions from the middle and late order revived the innings.

A 25-minute rain interruption after 15.4 overs couldn’t stop the Knight Riders’ surge as they added 50 off the remaining 26 balls.

The early dismissal of Gambhir notwithstanding, Uthappa, along with Manish Pandey, set about the task in familiar fashion. Uthappa’s amazing consistency has been the biggest positive for the Knight Riders this season.

Undaunted by the circumstances, Uthappa and Pandey combined to take 17 runs off Mitchell Johnson, the fourth over of the innings. It included a pulled six over mid wicket by Uthappa and he then followed it up with another straight six off Dhawan.

Uthappa now has the most runs scored by an Indian batsman in an IPL season. His tally stands at 655 and overtook Sachin Tendulkar’s 618 in 2010.

It was only after Akshar Patel came in to bowl that Bailey managed to keep a leash on the run-rate.

The left-arm spinner was superb on this day, a disciplined line and subtle variations proving to be the key.

Not surprisingly, he was the most successful with figures of 4-1-11-2, but there was none to complement his efforts.

The twin dismissals of Uthappa and Pandey in the ninth over did provide the Kings XI with an advantage they had been hoping for. While Uthappa (42 off 30 balls) paid the price for an over ambitious shot, Pandey was unlucky as the ball ricocheted off his thigh pad to knock off the bails. The pair stitched together 65 off 42 balls and were dismissed within a space of three balls.

Ironically, the twin dismissals coincided with Shah Rukh’s arrival at Eden Gardens, but had very little impact on the outcome.

Shakib, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate did provide some entertainment, but it was mainly Chawla’s 17 not out off nine balls in the closing stages that propelled their innings.

Much was expected of Yusuf after his exploits against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but it wasn’t his day.

He did enthuse passion with a six off Dhawan, but failed to last beyond 18 balls for his 20.

Ten Doeschate’s consecutive sixes off Karanveer Singh was also a flicker before he fell to Johnson and Chawla’s improvisation in the final over carried Knight Riders to a good score.