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Van der Merwe bludgeons Somerset to excellent win against KKR

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A belligerent 73 from just 40 balls by South African journeyman allrounder Roelof van der Merwe propelled the Somerset Sabres to an excellent 5 wicket win against the Kolkata Knight Riders in what was clearly a match of 4 very different quarters. After a very slow start, the Knight Riders exploded late in their innings to smash 9 sixes en route to an exceptional score of 161 on what was a very sluggish Hyderabad pitch. An unbeaten 74 from Jacques Kallis and a brisk 39 from Yusuf Pathan helping them post an imposing total. However, Van der Merwe turned the match on its head with some awesome hitting of his own, picking up 9 boundaries (more than the whole KKR team combined) and 2 sixes to put Somerset firmly in the driver's seat in their chase. A loss of 3 wickets for 3 runs brought the match alive late on, but a cool head from Nick Compton, grandson of the late great Denis Compton, saw the Sabres home with 2 balls to spare. 

The big news at the toss at the start of Kolkata vs Somerset Part Deux was the return of KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, who had recovered from the concussion he sustained on India's tour of England to take his place in the team ranks. That meant that young Sreevats Goswami would drop to the bench as did another youngster Jaidev Unadkat with former Indian medium pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji getting his first match of the tournament. Somerset were yet to welcome their two heroes, who were in action for England against the West Indies later tonight, but did bring in Irish tweaker George Dockrell for leg-spinner Max Waller. The spin of the coin went Gambhir's way, and he opted to make first use of the pitch.

The first 6 overs though belonged to the Somerset Sabres despite another lightning start from Manvinder Bisla. The powerful wicketkeeper batsman kept his place at the top of the order and showed why, smacking the first two balls of the match from Alfonso Thomas to the fence. At the other end, Murali Kartik wasn't spared either, with Bisla depositing the former Indian spinner into the stands. However, the decision to bring 19-year old Lewis Gregory into the attack for the third over proved to be a golden one as he dismissed Bisla for 17 and picked up the wicket of Gautam Gambhir a couple of balls later for a golden duck (Kallis took strike when Bisla was dismissed). Somerset pegged the scoring rate back, and at the end of the powerplay, KKR had posted a run a ball 36.

The next few over were a joy to watch as three completely different left arm spinners bowled in rotation and Kolkata crawled to 66/2 at the end of 11 overs. Kolkata's meandering innings saw Manoj Tiwary exit after a steady 20 from 26 balls, and witnessed the entry of Yusuf Pathan in the 13th over. At the end of the over, Kolkata were 74/3 scoring at a run rate of 5.69. That's when it started raining sixes in Hyderabad.

Jacques Kallis almost fell in the 14th over, and was fortunate to be awarded a six with Gregory taking an excellent catch on the boundary, but just stepping on the line. The following over, Somerset surprisingly tossed the ball to a fourth left-arm spinner in their ranks, Arul Suppiah. Pathan carted the Malaysian into the the stands on 4 consecutive deliveries in an over that conceded 30. Suddenly, the score had marched on to 113 at the end of 15 overs. The Kolkata innings got another reprieve when Gregory dropped a skier from Pathan this time and that allowed the Knight Riders to push the score along to 161/3 in their 20 overs. Jacques Kallis batted through the innings to post 74, while Pathan made 39 from 21 balls, failing to find the boundary in any other over other than spectacular one from Suppiah.

Somerset, however, were far from daunted by the imposing target coutesy Kolkata's late innings explosion and came out with a can do attitude of if they can, we can. After Brett Lee's opening over conceded 15, Kolkata celebrated the early wicket of Chris Jones, who fell to Iqbal Abdulla's first ball. However, that was the last piece of joy Kolkata would have for a while as Roelof van der Merwe once again exhibited his allround prowess, smashing an incredible 73 runs from just 40 deliveries to decimate the Knight Riders' bowling.

Somerset scored 63 runs in the powerplay with Van der Merwe getting 38 of those while Trego was playing sensibly from the other end, rotating the strike. The South African spared no one, and though Trego struggled to score at a run a ball, the team was cruising to victory at 119/1 at the end of 13 overs.

With 43 required from 42 balls, calamity struck the Sabres as they lost both set batsmen in Shakib Al Hasan's final over. Shakib dropped a skier from Trego off his own bowling, but ran the batsman out with a direct hit as the Englishman attempted to pinch a second run. Shakib then held on to a second offering from Van der Merwe later in the over to end an outstanding innings. James Hildreth then fell for a duck on the first ball of the following over, and with 3 wickets in 7 balls, KKR were back in the game.

With the asking rate still hovering around 6, it was nip and tuck till the very end with Suppiah losing a chance to turn from zero to hero, falling for 15 to Rajat Bhatia in the 17th over. The equation finally came down to 14 from 12 balls with Balaji bowling the penultimate over. His decision to bowl slower balls on virtually every delivery made his pace rather predictable, allowing the batsmen to sneak a boundary to bring the ask down to 4 from the final over. Rajat Bhatia was given the task of keeping Somerset to 3 or under, but was unable to contain Nick Compton, who scooped the ball over short fine leg for the winning runs.

It was consecutive wins for Somerset against the Kolkata Knight Riders, and the English side with reinforcements scheduled to arrive this week, look strong favourites at this early stage to challenge for a semi-final berth. The English side have almost a week off before they meet the South Australian Redbacks in what will be the first of 3 matches in 5 days for them.

Team:

KKR: M Bisla (wk), J Kallis, G Gambhir (c), M Towary, Y Pathan, R ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, R Bhatia, I Abdulla, B Lee, L Balaji

Somerset: C Jones, N Compton, L Gregory, J Hildreth, P Trego, R van der Merwe, A Suppiah, G Dockrell, S Snell (wk), A Thomas (c), M Kartik

Mini Scorecard:

Kolkata Knight Riders 161/3 (20overs, 8.05rpo)
J Kallis 74* (61) L Gregory 2-9
Y Pathan 39* (21) A Thomas 1-34

Somerset Sabres 164/5 (19.4overs, 8.33rpo)
R Van der Merwe 73 (40) R Bhatia 2-27
P Trego 28 (35) I Abdulla 1-29

Sabres win by 5 wickets