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The Kolkata Knight Riders claimed top spot in the Indian Premier League table for a few days at the very least, as they downed heavy favourites Delhi Daredevils on their own turf by 6 wickets in a rather one-sided contest. They match failed to live up to the hype with the fall of Delhi skipper Virender Sehwag for 23 the catalyst for Kolkata restricting their hosts to an ordinary 153/9 in 20 overs. Sunil Narine was virtually unplayable once again, and finished with 2-23, while Man of the Match Jacques Kallis produced yet another efficient all round display, picking up a couple of big top order wickets, while only conceding 20 runs from his 4 overs. Brendon McCullum (56) made his first half-century of the season, and shared in vital stands with Gautam Gambhir (36) and Kallis (30) to steer his side to a comfortable win. Delhi though have played a game less than Kolkata and can regain top spot if they beat the Deccan Chargers in their next outing.
Two teams that have won their last 4 games in a row to occupy the top two spots in the Indian Premier League table collide this evening at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. The Delhi Daredevils will be anxious to keep their excellent start to the season going in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, who has left for home to begin his preparation for the Test series against the West Indies. Australian left-hander David Warner came in for Englishman, and was expected to open the batting with Virender Sehwag, pushing Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene to no.3. A fit again Varun Aaron was thrust into the starting eleven too as teenage spinner Pawan Negi, despite his heroics in the last game, was benched for this contest.
The Kolkata Knight Riders made two changes to their side with Brett Lee returning to the side in place of the impressive Marchant de Lange, with the Kolkata management opting for experience over raw pace, with the ball likely to fly off the bat at this rather small venue. Delhi boy Pradeep Sangwan also came into the Kolkata side with spinner Iqbal Abdulla making way as both teams put more emphasis on pace than spin.
Brett Lee gave the Knight Riders a perfect start, bowling a maiden straight up to compatriot David Warner. Sehwag responded from the other ending by smashing 17 from the second over from Sangwan, including 2 boundaries and a maximum. Warner joined in the fun in the third over as another 17 runs were scored, this time off Brett Lee. Jacques Kallis brought Kolkata a much needed breakthrough in the fourth over trapping Sehwag leg before for 23. Kallis continued to have a great start to the game, removing the other opener David Warner for 21 in his second over, and also had a very convincing caught behind appeal against Mahela Jayawardene turned down later in the over. At the end of the powerplay, the Delhi Daredevils were 50/2 with Gautam Gambhir getting involved in a heated discussion with Mahela.
Mahela continued to have an exciting evening with a dropped catch deny Kallis his third wicket in as many overs. Jayawardene responded to the extra life by picking up a 4 and a 6 in Rajat Bhatia's first over. At the half-way stage, Delhi were interestingly poised at 79/2 with Kallis having finished his 4 over spell for just 20, and Sunil Narine having 3 overs still up his sleeve.
Jayawardene's luck finally ran out, quite literally, as a direct hit from Gautam Gambhir found him short of his crease having made 30. A couple of overs later, Ross Taylor departed after having made another poor 16 from 27 balls, as the Kiwi skipper's lack of form continued. At the end of 15 overs, Delhi were on the backfoot at 108/4.
Yogesh Nagar made a breezy 10 from 7 balls before being yorked by Brett Lee. Irfan Pathan landed some crucial big blows to post a crucial 36 from 22 balls before Sunil Narine ran riot in the final over which saw four wickets falls including two run outs as Delhi finished with an under par 153/9.
Kolkata made the perfect start to their chase, taking each of the Delhi bowlers to the cleaners during the powerplay. Both Brendon McCullum and Gautam Gambhir fired, and KKR raced to 60/0 at the end of the powerplay.
Varun Aaron celebrated his return to action by giving Delhi a desperately needed breakthrough with Gautam Gambhir falling for 36, chopping the ball back onto his stumps. The loss of Gambhir had an instant impact on the run rate with Delhi pulling things back briefly with Kolkata adding just 34 runs between overs 7 and 12. Despite that, the match was very much KKR's to lose as they needed just another 60 runs to win heading into the last 8 overs.
With the target very much in sight Kolkata stepped on the accelerator, and made their way to 128/1 by the 15th over, leaving them with less than a run a ball required to seal the win.
Delhi did their best to make things interesting late on with Umesh Yadav removing both set batsmen on consecutive deliveries with some short-pitched stuff. Morne Morkel also chipped in with the wicket of Manoj Tiwary for 8, and Delhi could have applied more pressure on KKR but Irfan Pathan dropped brother Yusuf allowing KKR to get to their target with 8 balls to spare.
It was a big win for the Knight Riders who go top of the table and look odds on favourites for making it to the knock-out rounds of the competition.
The Delhi Daredevils will look are on the road later this week as they head off to Hyderabad to take on the Deccan Chargers on Thursday, 10th May. The Knight Riders meanwhile have a few extra days to re-energize before they entertain the Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Delhi Daredevils: D Warner, V Sehwag (c), M Jayawardene, R Taylor, N Ojha (wk), I Pathan, Y Nagar, M Morkel, S Nadeem, U Yadav, V Aaron.
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, P Sangwan
Delhi Daredevils 153/9 (20 overs, 7.65rpo)
M Jayawardene 30 (54) J Kallis 2-20
I Pathan 36 (22) S Narine 2-23
Kolkata Knight Riders 154/4 (18.4 overs, 8.25rpo)
B McCullum 56 (44) U Yadav 2-30
G Gambhir 36 (21) V Aaron 1-20
Kolkata win by 6 wickets with 8 balls to spare
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