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A super century from Mumbai's Rohit Sharma was the difference between the two sides as the Indians crushed the Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs at the Eden Gardens on Saturday evening. Batting first, Mumbai recovered from losing Sachin Tendulkar early to post a daunting 182/1 courtesy of 167 run unbeaten partnership between Sharma (109*) and Herschelle Gibbs (66). The Knight Riders also lost early wickets, including the crucial one of Gautam Gambhir, and despite Jacques Kallis posting a useful 79, his two partnerships with Manoj Tiwary (27) and Yusuf Pathan (40*) failed to do enough to alter the outcome. The result moves Mumbai back into third place with 16 points, a point and a place behind Kolkata. With the top two sides in the table going into a qualifier and third and fourth into an eliminator round, there is a massive incentive for both teams to try and finish above each other and take full toll of the three remaining games.
A typical Eden Gardens wicket greeted the travelling Mumbai Indians as Hrabhajan Singh and his merry men made their way over to Kolkata for this top of the table clash. The spin of the coin went Mumbai's way and as expected they opted to make first use of the pitch. Both teams made two changes each with Herschelle Gibbs getting his first knock of the tournament having recovered from his finger injury, coming in for James Franklin, while Munaf Patel returning for RP Singh on a deck unlikely to aid swing bowlers. Kolkata meanwhile were forced to drop Brendon McCullum just when he had started to find some form due to injury, with Manvinder Bisla coming in to don the gloves while Shakib Al Hasan got a rare game.
Shakib took the new ball and produced a near perfect opening over to Gibbs, conceding just a single on the last ball. Gibbs came back well in the second over, striking Brett Lee for three boundaries, but the start belonged to the new boys as Shakib and Bisla combined perfectly to send Sachin Tendulkar back to the hutch with just 2 to his name, stumped off a ball that turned past the bat. Lee meanwhile continued to be expensive, going for 23 in his first 2 overs. Rohit Sharma, the heir apparent to the Tendulkar throne, showed just why he is so highly rated as he followed up his six off Lee by taking 14 runs from Shakib's second over to ensure that a momentum shift had indeed taken place.
Jaques Kallis and Rajat Bhatia did their traditional role in the middle overs of drying up the runs and at the half-way stage of the Mumbai innings, the visitors were a steady 76/1.
The following over signalled Mumbai's intent to get after the bowling as Kallis conceded 18 runs with Sharma the primary beneficiary. The youngster brought up his half-century in just 29 deliveries, and Mumbai were on their way to a big score. The contest continued to be an enthralling one with Sunil Narine joining the mix and perplexing the batsmen with his mystery deliveries. Bhatia's final over went for 19 as Sharma once again lashed out, leaving Mumbai poised for a big finish at 132/1 from 15 overs.
The slog overs produced the kind of runs that one would expect from a team with 9 wickets in hand. While Gibbs brought up a combative fifty in the 17th over, Sharma went from 85 to 100 in Lee's third over. Gibbs celebrated reaching his landmark by giving Sunil Narine a rare pasting. Brett Lee pulled things back briefly by conceding just 4 runs in his final over, but still finished having conceded 44 runs from his quota. Kolkata finished strongly to keep Mumbai under 200 with an 8 run over from Kallis wrapping up the Mumbai Innings at 182/1. Rohit Sharma finished with 109 from just 60 deliveries, while Gibbs had 66 to his name, having played just 2 balls less.
Kolkata made a nightmare start to their reply losing Gautam Gambhir (0) and Manvinder Bisla (1) in the first two overs to land in a world of trouble at 3-2. Gambhir decided to take Munaf Patel on in the very first over and lost his middle stump, while Pragyan Ojha got Bisla out sweeping. Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary had the job of rebuilding the innings, and took their side through to 32/2 at the end of the powerplay.
Tiwary made a creditable 27 from 25 balls before he fell leg before to Kieron Pollard in the 10th over. At the mid-way stage of their chase, Kolkata were miles behind the asking rate at a disappointing 61/3.
Yusuf Pathan joined Kallis out in the middle and the duo attempted to get a move on right away. Pragyan Ojha was hit for a six by both batsmen in the 12th over, but Mumbai kept a hold on proceedings to keep the score down to 106/3 at the end of 15 overs.
KKR scored 33 runs from the next 3 overs to give themselves a slender chance of an upset win with Kallis and not Pathan leading the charge. An unlikely 44 though were needed from the last 2 overs, and the team needed more than 2 big hits an over.
Standing in KKR's way to eternal glory was Lasith Malinga and the Sri Lankan speed merchant produced the perfect over, conceding 6 singles to end the contest. With 38 needed from the last over, Dwayne Smith just had to ensure that he didn't overstep, and he didn't, even getting the bonus wicket of Kallis for a well compiled 79, with Rohit Sharma fittingly taking the catch.
Mumbai picked up the win by 27 runs, virtually booking their place in the final four. It was a disappointing defeat for the Knight Riders, especially so considering they had wickets in hand, but just weren't able to land enough blows.
They will continue to play good hosts as they welcome the Chennai Super Kings on Monday night. The Mumbai Indians are also in action earlier that day as they make the long journey from Kolkata to Bangalore to take on the Royal Challengers.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gambhir (c), Kallis, Bisla (wk), Tiwary, Pathan, Shakib, Das, Shukla, Bhatia, Lee, Narine
Mumbai Indians: Gibbs, Tendulkar, Sharma, Karthik, Rayudu, Smith, Pollard, Harbhajan (c), Malinga, RP Singh
Mumbai Indians 182/1 (20 overs, 9.1rpo)
R Sharma 109* (60) S Al Hasan 1-27
H Gibbs 66* (58)
Kolkata Knight Riders 155/4 (20 overs, 7.75rpo)
J Kallis 79 (60) P Ojha 1-26
Y Pathan 40 (31) K Pollard 1-29
Mumbai win by 27 runs
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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