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It was billed as Sourav Ganguly vs the Kolkata Knight Riders, and the match lived up to the hype with the home side sneaking home by 7 runs in a tense encounter at the mecca of cricket in India. Batting first, Kolkata had raced away to 113 for no loss with Gautam Gambhir (56) and Brendon McCullum (42) leading the charge. However, Pune fought back brilliantly at the end of the innings to restrict KKR to an appalling 150/5, with just 37 runs coming in the last 45 balls. The visitors though were unable to carry the momentum forward into their chase and slumped to 55/5 before a 73 run partnership between the 'Prince of Kolkata' Sourav Ganguly (36) and Angelo Mathews (35) gave them hope of an unlikely win. That, however, failed to materialize with the unplayable Sunil Narine taking 1-13 in his 4 overs to leave Pune 7 runs shy in the end.
It was the home-coming for a Prince in the guise of a Warrior as Sourav Ganguly led his new Pune franchise out on to the sacred turf at Eden Gardens, Kolkata to take on his former side, the Knight Riders. This game was of much more importance to the Pune side, who were languishing at the wrong end of the Indian Premier League points table. The flip of the coin went the home side's way and Gautam Gambhir had no hesitation in opting to bat first.
Kolkata made just one change to their line-up with South African speedster Marchant de Lange getting the nod in place of Brett Lee. Pune meanwhile chopped and changed radically with Sri Lankan allrounder Angelo Mathews returning to the side in place Jesse Ryder. That meant a reshuffle at the top of the order and a game for Manish Pandey who entered the fray in place of former Indian pacer Ashish Nehra.
The Knight Riders made an awesome start to the game posting an impressive 68/0 in the mandatory powerplay. Gautam Gambhir was in exceptional form, smashing 35 runs from 18 balls including 2 maximums, while Brendon McCullum also looked to be regaining his touch as he posted a handy 20, having faced the same number of balls as Gambhir. India hopeful Ashok Dinda came in for some real treatment in his second over with 19 runs coming off it to put KKR firmly in the driver's seat.
The run flow continued unabated even after the field spread with KKR reaching 98/0 at the half-way stage of their innings. Brendon McCullum was fortunate to still be around with Ashok Dinda dropping a real dolly off Michael Clarke to give the Kiwi batsman an extra life. Gambhir meanwhile brought up his half-century and moments later the century stand for the first wicket as KKR continued to pile on the runs.
Pune finally got a much needed breakthrough with Gautam Gambhir's lack of fitness once again coming to the fore as he played a tired-looking shot off Murali Karthik, holing out in the deep for a crucial 56. Yusuf Pathan was pushed up the order to no.3 in an attempt to make the most of the platform laid by the KKR openers, but before he could open his shoulders, he lost the company of Brendon McCullum, unfortunate to be adjudged leg before for 42, despite getting some bat on ball.
Some exceptional fielding by Steve Smith on the boundary denied Pathan a sure 6 as the Aussie leapt horizontal to the ground to claw the ball back into play in mid air. Pune's late revival continued as Angelo Mathews completely hoodwinked Jacques Kallis (1) disturbing his furniture with a slower ball. Heading into the second strategic time-out, KKR had lost their way a bit at 125/3.
The runs had completely dried up for Kolkata, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck twice in penultimate over to send back Yusuf Pathan (11) and Laxmi Ratan Shukla (0) to leave KKR at a rather ordinary 141/5. Nine runs from the final over left Kolkata at a less than flattering 150/5 from their 20 overs, quite literally having made a real mess of the last 10 overs.
Robin Uthappa and Michael Clarke were the new opening combination for Pune, who continued to chop and change in their desperate pursuit of a win. The duo could add just 10 runs for the opening wicket before Marchant de Lange provided KKR a much needed breakthrough by removing the Aussie skipper for 1 with his first delivery. The pacey South African struck again in his next over, removing the dangerous Robin Uthappa for 17, caught at point. Steve Smith joined Manish Pandey out in the middle, and at 28/2 from 4 overs it was very much game on. Kolkata opted to give De Lange a third over, but it was Pune who finished the powerplay strongly, taking 10 runs off the over to end at 45/2.
Iqbal Abdulla, who had shared the new ball with De Lange was bowled out at the start of the game, and the move proved to be an excellent decision by Gambhir with the left-arm spinner getting rid of Manish Pandey, caught in the deep. In the very next over, Jacques Kallis removed the newcomer Mithun Manhas for 1 with Sourav Ganguly surprisingly holding himself back. The wickets kept tumbling as Sunil Narine also struck in his first over to send back Steve Smith for 14. Ganguly finally walked out to join Angelo Mathews with Pune in dire straits at 55/5.
With a partnership the need of the hour, Ganguly and Mathews played smart cricket opting to keep their side in the contest, chipping away at the target. At the end of 14 overs, Pune had crept up to 90/5 and needed another 61 runs from the last 6 overs to snatch an unlikely win.
Angelo Mathews gave the Pune fans cause for optimism by smashing 3 consecutive sixes off Yusuf Pathan to bring the asking rate down to manageable proportions. Heading into the final strategic time-out of the day, Pune were 116/5, needing 35 from 24 balls.
Sunil Narine squeaked in a 4 run over to put Kolkata back on top before Ganguly responded with a 6 to start the 18th over. Rajat Bhatia though had the last laugh, dismissing the Pune skipper and Bengal legend later in the over to break the 73 run partnership for the 6th wicket.
Narine returned to defend the 19th over with Pune needing 22 from 12. He produced an exceptional over conceding just 4 runs off it, also picking up the wicket of Wayne Parnell via a run out. Once again the West Indian mystery spinner had done brilliantly to finish with figures of 1-13. The man who did the damage at the top of the order, Marchant de Lange, returned from the cold to bowl the last over of the game. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar struck a boundary on the second ball to bring the equation down to 12 from the last 3 balls. Angelo Mathews though fell on the next delivery, and with his departure for 35 ended Pune's chances as KKR emerged winners by 7 runs.
The win helps Kolkata cement 2nd place in the IPL table, and they will look to take top spot when they take on the Delhi Daredevils on Monday night. The Warriors meanwhile are out of the reckoning now for a play-off spot barring a miracle, and they could well attempt to give some of their bench strength a go in upcoming games. They return home to take on the Rajasthan Royals in a 4pm kick-off on Tuesday.
Kolkata Knight Riders: B McCullum (wk), G Gambhir (c), LR Shukla, J Kallis, M Tiwary, Y Pathan, R Bhatia, DB Das, S Narine, M de Lange, I Abdulla
Pune Warriors: M Pandey, M Clarke, S Ganguly (c), R Uthappa (wk), S Smith, M Manhas, A Mathews, W Parnell, A Dinda, B Kumar, M Kartik.
Kolkata Knight Riders 150/5 (20 overs, 7.5rpo)
G Gambhir 56 (36) A Mathews 2-17
B McCullum 42 (43) B Kumar 2-26
Pune Warriors 143/8 (20 overs, 7.15rpo)
A Mathews 35 (27) M de Lange 3-35
S Ganguly 36 (35) S Narine 1-13
Kolkata win by 7 runs
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