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The sight of Sharukh Khan, the KKR owner, dancing in joy, clapping and hugging his Knights summed up the satisfaction of a job well done. The Kolkata Knight Riders expertly defended 136 to seal second spot in the IPL table, that guaranteed them the extra cushion of a buffer game in the play-offs should they flounder in the first attempt. The Kolkata spinners' wile and guile struck telling blows at regular intervals to wipe out Pune for a shameful 102-8. While Shakib Al Hasan (2-18) and Yusuf Pathan(2-12) snared two wickets apiece, the other bowlers also made handy contributions. The Pune Warriors never really got going and slumped to their ninth consecutive defeat. Earlier in the evening, the Knights got off to a jittery start on a lively turf before Shakib Al Hasan(42) and Brendon McCullum(41) picked up the pace in the middle overs to push Kolkata to a competitive 136-4. Their 67 run counter-attacking association formed the cornerstone of Kolkata's innings. Deservedly, the game changing Shakib walked away with the Man of the match award.
The Pune Warriors, in action for the last time in IPL 2012 hosted the Kolkata Knight Riders at the splendid Subrata Roy Sahara stadium on Saturday evening. Whilst the Knights were hell bent on capturing a win to confirm a top two finish, the disappointing Warriors were eyeing a consolation victory to salvage a bit of shattered pride and sign off on a positive note. Rumors were rife that this would be Dada's farewell game.
The luck of the toss sided with the Knight Riders and Gautam Gambhir opted to make first use of what appeared to be a fine batting track. The hosts made a couple of enforced overseas edits with Wayne Parnell and Michael Clarke coming in for the unfit duo of Angelo Mathews and the influential Steve Smith. Harpreet Singh and Ali Murtaza also got a game at the expense of Indian internationals, Rahul Sharma and Murali Kartik. Meanwhile, KKR stuck to their spin heavy attack which meant there was no room for Brett Lee.
Brendon McCullum kick-started Kolkata's innings with two fours off Ashish Nehra in the first over. His 'shimmey down the track' flick over mid-on suggested that he was in good nick. His partner, Gautam Gambhir was circumspect early on, preferring to treat the ball on its merit. Ali Mutarza, sharing the new ball with Nehra and Wayne Parnell, did a tidy job, giving away 11 off his first two overs. A series of dot deliveries put KKR under the pump. Cashing in, the South African drew first blood to have the big fish, Gauti (10) caught at mid-on. McCullum too went into a cocoon as Kolkata slumbered to 27-1 in 6 overs. With the ball not coming onto the bat as easily as expected, stroke making turned out to be increasingly difficult.
Sourav Ganguly's gentle medium pacers and Michael Clarke's left arm orthodox spin tightened the screws further. Kallis' snail pace approach did not help the comatose Kolkata run-rate either. In a desperate attempt to pick up the tempo, Kallis(13) fell to Clarke. The veteran's expansive inside-out shot failed miserably as his middle stump went for a tumble.
The Warrior Prince Dada diving around to save a few runs underlined Pune's new found intensity. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, replacing his captain also snuck in a couple of gold-dust like tight overs.
Deciding that enough was enough, McCullum and Shakib Al Hasan threw caution to the wind. While McCullum slammed 2 fours off Nehra, the Bangladeshi bettered the Kiwi batsman with 2 biggies over mid-wicket. In the interim, a drop in intensity saw Parnell spill the southpaw and Robin Uthappa miss a regulation stumping. Runs flowed at an electric pace.
Shakib, coming out with all guns blazing offered the innings that much needed impetus. The fifty of the partnership was brought up in just 31 balls. The awesome twosome were also lightning quick between the wickets. At 107-2 in 16 overs, KKR were heading towards a fighting 140 plus total.
Unfortunately for the Knights, immediately after the time-out, Parnell removed McCullum (41) and redeemed himself. The dangerous Shakib soon followed suit for 42 as Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's scorching yorker cannoned onto the stumps.
Yusuf Pathan announced himself onto Sahara stadium with 2 powerful boundaries that earned the applause of his team owner. Wayne Parnell though bowled an excellent last over to prevent Pune from breaching the 140 mark. Nonetheless, considering Kolkata's in-form bowling unit, 136-4 seemed to be a very competitive total.
Gambhir set his spinners loose on the helpful pitch early. Following a frugal first over from Shakib, Iqbal Abdulla got rid of Uthappa for a run-a-ball 8. Foxed by flight, the Karnataka based batsman spooned Abdulla to the ever bankable Tiwary stationed at cover. The left arm spinners spun the ball prodigiously to keep the Warriors guessing. Refusing to yield, Jesse Ryder took the initiative to release the pressure with a thwack over mid-wicket for six. The opener followed it up with another maximum in the next over, this time sailing over long on. Michael Clarke at the other end chose to play himself in. The game was open for both teams with Pune at 40-1 in 6 overs.
Yusuf Pathan, then, struck twice in his first two overs to put Kolkata ahead in the game. Clarke(13) was the first to depart, unlucky to be stumped down the leg side. The hard-hitting Ryder was soon united with the Aussie captain after he was clean bowled. Balaji, armed with subtle variations in pace also chipped in to slow down Pune's approach.
Ganguly, playing perhaps his last match on the big stage, did not trouble the scorers much and was trapped lbw by Shakib for 5. Sunil Narine's accuracy and extra pace compounded Pune's woes. Kolkata's tweakers were in total command owing to which the asking rate shot up to over 10. Anustup Majumdar and Callum Ferguson struggled to find the fence as PWI meandered to 82-4 in 15 overs.
The relentless pressure soon got the better of Majumdar (17), who surredered to the guile of Shakib. Moments later, Bhatia joined the party to cause Ferguson(12) to hole out in the deep. The result by now looked like a foregone conclusion. Pune eventually slid to 102-8 to hand KKR an emphatic 34 run triumph.
It was a good practice game for the Knight Riders, who will next gear up to take on the Delhi Daredevils in the play-off qualifier at the same venue on Tuesday.
PWI: S Ganguly(c), J Ryder, R Uthappa(wk), A Majumdar, M Clarke, C Ferguson, W Parnell, B Kumar, Harpreet Singh, A Murtaza, A Nehra
KKR: B McCullum(wk), G Gambhir(c), J Kallis, M Tiwary, Y Pathan, S Al Hasan, D Das, R Bhatia, I Abdulla, L Balaji, S Narine
Kolkata Knight Riders 136-4 (20 overs, 6.80 rpo)
S Al Hasan 42(30) W Parnell 2-18
B McCullum 41(43) B Kumar 1-23
Pune Warriors 102-8 (20 overs, 5.10 rpo)
J Ryder 22(24) Y Pathan 2-12
A Majumdar 17(22) S Hasan 2-18
KKR win by 34 run
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