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The Kolkata Knight Riders took a giant step towards booking a place in the knock-out rounds of IPL Season 5 with a hard fought 5 wicket win over the Chennai Super Kings in Chepauk on Monday. The Super Kings had a poor outing with the bat, scoring just 139/5 in their 20 overs with Suresh Raina the only batsman to make a noteworthy contribution with a crucial 44. The Kolkata bowlers kept the Super Kings on a tight leash with Sunil Narine and Jacques Kallis choking up the runs in the middle overs, conceding just 45 from 8 overs between them. Kolkata were always in control of the chase with Gautam Gambhir leading the way with another solid half-century, this time making 63. Things got a little nervy towards the end, but Debabrata Das might have just earned himself a cameo in the next Shahrukh Khan movie by spanking the winning runs with 2 balls to spare.
A crucial top of the table clash pitted the Chennai Super Kings against the Kolkata Knight Riders in game 41 of the Indian Premier League season. Hosts Chennai won the toss and skipper MS Dhoni had no hesitation in opting to make first use of the pitch. The Chennai batting line-up was boosted by the arrival of an in-form Michael Hussey from his West Indian sojourn. Huss came into the playing eleven for Wriddhiman Saha right away, which Nuwan Kulasekara dropped out to maintain the number of foreigners at 4, paving the way for a return for Yo Mahesh. Kolkata meanwhile kept faith with the same side that took the field in their last game.
Subramaniam Badrinath dropped into the Chennai middle order as Michael Hussey joined the in-form Faf du Plessis at the top. The new ball was shared by Iqbal Abdulla and Brett Lee, with the latter getting rid of the Proteas opener with just his fourth delivery, caught behind for 3 by Brendon McCullum. Suresh Raina retained his no.3 position in the line-up and walked in to join Hussey. Kolkata though lost some of that early momentum by tossing the ball to Yusuf Pathan for the third over despite Abdulla conceding just 4 runs from his 1st. Pathan was taken for 10 runs with Hussey also picking up the first boundary of the innings. Raina meanwhile decided he was going to hit his way into form by taking on Brett Lee, depositing the Australian pacer into the stands in the next over. The changes kept coming with Sunil Narine the latest to be handed the ball and the 5th over provided a breakthrough, but not in a way usual to the West Indian. Michael Hussey's attempt to steal a single met with a staunch refusal from Raina, and the Aussie veteran was too far down when he was sent back, leaving him run out for 18. The surprises continued no end with Dwayne Bravo bumped up to no.4, and Iqbal Abdulla handed the ball again! 11 runs from the final over of the mandatory powerplay including a second ball six from Bravo meant that Chennai were 43/2 when the field spread.
There was no slowing down the Chennai juggernaut as a boundary virtually every over meant that the Super Kings were at 74/2 at the half-way point of their innings. Jacques Kallis though got KKR a much needed breakthrough by getting Dwayne Bravo caught in the deep for 12, the West Indian losing his patience after having been deprived of much of the strike. Kallis soon made it a double strike, picking up the crucial wicket of Raina for 44 to end with excellent figures of 2-21 from his 4 overs.
MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja looked to rebuild the innings, but appeared to hit a road block as Kolkata choked up the flow of runs. At the end of 16 overs, Chennai had barely made their way past a hundred, and were going to struggle to post a competitive score.
The Kolkata bowlers held their nerve at the end conceding just 2 boundaries in the last 4 overs as Chennai crept along to an underpar 139/5 in their 20 overs. MS Dhoni ran hard between the wickets to end unbeaten on 34, while Albie Morkel, who replaced Jadeja (9 from 13 balls) benefited from a dropped catch and took 4 consecutive doubles in the final over to score 13.
Kolkata's start mirrored Chennai's as they lost Brendon McCullum early in their chase, failing to clear the in-field while attempting to take on Ashwin. Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis stabilized the innings, and with a reasonable target to chase, knew they didn't need to take any unnecessary risks. The powerplay overs saw 37 runs scored for the loss of McCullum, an outcome that would not have particularly displeased either side.
The going continued to be slow and steady for Kolkata, who settled once again into a rhythm of accumulation with a couple of rare big hits thrown in between. At the midway stage, Kolkata were 68/1 and needed a bit more of a push from their senior pros to ensure that the game did not get too tight late on.
Kolkata lost Kallis in an attempt to up the ante with the veteran South African falling for 26, caught behind off Bravo. He was replaced by Manoj Tiwary, who would have been keen to show his ability to take the side home from a winning position. Heading into the strategic time out at the end of the 14th over, Kolkata needed 48 to win from 36 balls.
Dwayne Bravo's exceptional figures of 16 balls for 9 runs were dented by Gambhir as he struck consecutive boundaries off the medium pacer, soon after bringing up his half-century earlier in the over. Albie Morkel though kept the game interesting by ending Tiwary's stay for a run a ball 13. Yusuf Pathan walked out to a situation tailor made for his skills.
With 16 runs needed from the last two overs, Kolkata lost a tiring Gautam Gambhir for 63 trapped leg before by Bravo. A first ball 4 from a nerveless Debabrata Das restored the balance perfectly, leaving Kolkata needing a run a ball from the final over to pick up the win.
Yusuf Pathan's wild slog on the third ball of the last over which resulted in his dismissal for 12 would have sent a few hearts a flutter in the Kolkata dugout, but Das kept his focus, crossing while the ball was in the air, before dispatching the next ball in the direction of wide long-on to see the Knight Riders over the finish line with 2 balls to spare.
Despite the loss, Chennai are still very much in the hunt for a top four finish, but will probably need to win at least 4 out of their last 6 games if they are to make the knock-out rounds. The first of those do or die encounters will take place right here in Chennai against the beleaguered Deccan Chargers on Friday. Kolkata meanwhile appear to already have one foot in teh semis, and will look to further cement their position when they entertain the Pune Warriors on Saturday afternoon.
Chennai Super Kings: S Badrinath, F du Plessis, M Hussey, S Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), R Jadeja, D Bravo, A Morkel, R Ashwin, S Jakati, Y Mahesh
Kolkata Knight Riders: B McCullum (wk), G Gambhir (c), LR Shukla, J Kallis, M Tiwary, Y Pathan, R Bhatia, DB Das, S Narine, B Lee, I Abdulla
Chennai Super Kings 139/5 (20 overs, 6.95rpo)
S Raina 44 (34) J Kallis 2-21
MS Dhoni 34* (30) S Narine 1-24
Kolkata Knight Riders 140/5 (19.4 overs, 7.11rpo)
G Gambhir 63 (52) R Ashwin 2-22
J Kallis 26 (31) D Bravo 2-27
Kolkata win by 5 wickets with 2 balls to spare
File Photograph Copyright: Michael Henn
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