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Match 17 of the Indian Premier League between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Kings XI Punjab turned out to an absolute thriller of a contest with the underdog Punjab side snatching victory straight from the jaws of defeat to sneak home by 2 runs. Having batted first, Punjab struggled to 104/8 off 18 overs at one stage, thanks to a terrific spell from mystery bowler Sunil Narine 5/19 before some fearless cricket from their tail saw them post a competitive 134/9 in 20 overs on a sluggish wicket. In reply, KKR were cruising at 71/2 after 10 overs before some tight bowling and some needless shots saw them slump to 94/6 in 15. Lower order bat Debrata Das(35*) then played some aggressive cricket and got his side within striking distance before Punjab once again turned the tide on the hosts with a stellar last two overs that saw them concede just 11 runs and pull off a stunning win.
The Kolkata Knight Riders, on the back of consecutive victories over the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Rajasthan Royals, geared up on Sunday afternoon to face underdogs Kings XI Punjab in their 5th game of this season, at home at the Eden Gardens. The home captain Gautam Gambhir started off well by winning the toss and electing to field first on a wicket that looked quite similar to the ones used earlier in the tournament. KKR were forced to make one change in bringing in left arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat in place of the injured Laxmipathy Balaji. The Kings XI too made a couple of changes from the side that won the previous game with Paras Dogra coming in for the struggling Paul Valthaty and Parvinder Awana making way for an extra spinner in Bhargav Bhatt.
Kings XI Punjab started off their innings in a scratchy fashion. Adam Gilchrist opened with young Mandeep Singh for this game and the combination didn't achieve desired results. Gilly (5) top edged one from mystery bowler Sunil Narine in his first over. The innings was further dented when Narine foxed the reliable Shaun Marsh for 1 getting him bowled through the gate. At 21/2, Mandeep Singh and No.4 David Hussey started to ressurect the innings. Mandeep was the more fluent of the two and hit some timely boundaries to give the innings some much needed impetus. David Hussey started slowly but picked up the pace rather steadily and built a fine partnership. The pair added a fruitful 39 runs unbeaten and at the end of 10 overs Punjab were reasonably placed at 60/2.
The David Hussey - Mandeep Singh partnership added 52 for the 3rd wicket and pulled the Kings XI out of a rut before Mandeep (38) looked to hit Shakib out of the park and holed out on the deep midwicket fence. That wicket halted Punjab's progress rapidly.
Paras Dogra who walked in at No.5 got stuck at one end and was also the culprit in the Hussey run out that happened a couple of overs later. Just as the big hitting Aussie began to assert his authority over the bowling some poor calling from Dogra resulted in his run out which affected the innings badly. Punjab collapsed dramatically thereafter and lost wickets rapidly.
Rajat Bhatia in the midst of a wonderful spell of 4-0-14-2, picked up Dogra (6) and Dimitri Mascarenhas (0) in the same over to leave Punjab reeling at 100/6. Another brilliant over to back up a great spell of 2-0-5-2 from Sunil Narine saw the Kings XI slip to 104/8, after Bipul Sharma (12) and Praveen Kumar(0) succumbed to his mystery deliveries.
Just as the innings was drawing to a disappointing close, the last 2 overs were carted for 30 runs from Piyush Chawla (13*) and Harmeet Singh (14 off 6 balls) to give the Kings XI a sniff. First Kallis was smashed for 19 runs in his last over which included a six and two fours before even the man of the innings, Narine, was hit for 11 in his final over by the Punjab tail thanks to their carefree approach. At the end of an action packed innings Punjab made 134/9 in their 20 overs, a total that gave them some hope of competing in this game.
The Knight Riders' captain Gautam Gambhir, opening the innings with Jacques Kallis, got his team off to a flier in pursuit of 135. Gambhir hit the left arm spin of Bhargav Bhatt for 12 runs off the second over of the innings to get the team rolling. Jacques Kallis though tried to hit Bhatt for another boundary in the same over, but sliced an inside out shot in the direction of Dogra at cover point who pulled off a spectacular one handed catch to give Punjab a much needed early break through. Gambhir at the other end looked at ease on this sluggish wicket and motored his way through to 22 off 13 before he softly chipped one back to Dimitri Mascarenhas off his own bowling to give Punjab an opening.
At 30/2, Manvider Bisla and Manoj Tiwary put together an important partnership. Bisla was his usual self, carefree and ambitious, and smashed his way out of the rest of the powerplay and then began to settle down. Tiwary opted for the more conservative approach though, was willing to set himself up to bat through the chase. The two batted through till the half way mark without much trouble and laid the platform for a comfortable chase. After 10 overs, KKR were comfortably placed at 71/2 with Bisla and Tiwary well set.
Just as the match looked like it was headed KKR's way, Punjab fought back brilliantly through their spinners. Both the set batsmen, first Tiwary (20) and then Bisla (27) fell in quick succession to Bhatt and Piyush Chawla respectively to set up a close finish. Tiwary fell plumb leg before to an arm ball, while Bisla played the wrong line and lost his middle peg. There was more carnage as Chawla's skidders and googlies wrecked the KKR middle order. The dangerous Yusuf Pathan was sent packing by Chawla for no score after missing an awkward sweep stroke and Shakib Al Hasan too was caught and bowled a couple of overs later, misreading a googly and offering a high catch off the top edge. After that mini collapse Kolkata still needed a further 41 runs from the last 5 overs with the last two recognised batsmen in Debabrata Das and Ryan ten Doeschate at the wicket.
Das was proving to be the saviour for Kolkata as he brought out some great aggressive stroke-play to get his side very close to the total against the odds. He punished a Chawla full toss for six to get his first boundary, before picking on the medium pace of Mascarenhas and Harmeet Singh to launch at the end. He got 3 fours in 5 balls faced off the medium pacers at one stage with shots played in unorthodox areas to ease the pressure.
With a little bit of help from seasoned dutchman Ten Doeschate, the pair put on 35 runs at nearly 10 runs an over to get the equation down to 13 required off 12. A fantastic 4 run over from Praveen Kumar at the death with 3 balls right in the blockhole brought the match back to life with 9 required off the final over. Harmeet Singh then bowled a fantastic final over for Punjab to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He bowled subtle leg breaks throughout the over to take valuable pace off the ball and accounted for Ten Doeschate(11) at a crucial juncture before finishing off the match by conceding just 6 runs with some innocuous looking but effective deliveries.
The defeat was real heartbreak for the Knight Riders, who lost the match after having played 4 poor overs; two death overs in each innings. Despite a valiant attempt by young Debabrata Das, who took his side to the brink of a win, Punjab held their nerve amazingly and fought hard till the end to come up with a win that reflected the importance of grafting and perseverance. This buoyant Punjab side will face the Kolkata Knight Riders once again, this time in their own backyard in the return leg of the fixture on 18th April, which promises to be a rather fascinating encounter after what transpired in Kolkata tonight.
KKR: G Gambhir, J Kallis, M Bisla, Y Pathan, M Tiwary, S Al Hasan, R Ten Doeschate, R Bhatia, S Narine, D Das, J Unadkat.
Kings XI: A Gilchrist, P Dogra, M Singh, S Marsh, D Hussey, P Chawla, B Bhatt, H Singh, D Mascarenhas, B Sharma, P Kumar.
Kings XI Punjab 134/9 (20 overs, 6.7 runs per over)
Mandeep Singh 38(32) S Narine 5/19
D Hussey 32(31) R Bhatia 2/14
Kolkata Knight Riders 132/7 (20 overs, 6.60 runs per over)
D Das 35*(23) P Chawla 3/18
M Bisla 27(25) B Bhatt 2/24
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