Kolkata Knight Riders kept their playoff hopes, however slim, alive with a comfortable 46-run victory over Pune Warriors India at Subrata Roy Sahara stadium in Pune on Thursday (May 9).
It was their first victory on the road in the Indian Premier League 2013 and it consigned Pune to their eighth straight loss since their win over Chennai Super Kings on April 15.
After opting to bat, Kolkata got off to a good start with Gautam Gambhir, the captain, leading the charge on a pitch he had earlier described as "unpredictable". But for his 44-ball 50, Kolkata wouldn't have had it as easy against a good performance by Pune with the ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mitchell Marsh were both among the wickets, claiming five between them, while Parveez Rasool, playing his first-ever IPL match, returned commendable figures of 1 for 23 in four overs.
Given their start though, Kolkata should have ended miles ahead of the 152 they eventually managed. After negotiating a fairly tight first over from Wayne Parnell, Gambhir attacked Krishnakant Upadhyay, taking him for consecutive fours, while Parnell also came in for some harsh treatment in the next over as Kolkata raced towards 50 within six overs.
However, Manvinder Bisla's dismissal changed the course of the innings. He swung and missed one off Bhuvneshwar and ended up being stumped. Jacques Kallis didn't last long, gifting an easy catch to short cover to become Rasool's only victim, and then Mitchell Marsh had Eoin Morgan's number after a run-a-ball 15.
Things got worse when Gambhir, shortly after getting to his half-century, was caught at short midwicket off Marsh. With Yusuf Pathan not lasting long, it seemed Kolkata had nowhere to go at 97 for 5.
However, Ryan ten Doeschate and Manoj Tiwary, both returning to the side, and Rajat Bhatia made important contributions at the death to take the total to where they did.
In response, Pune never quite got going. There was a bit of an incident when the TV umpire, Simon Taufel, overturned a run out with Kallis appearing to deflect Robin Uthappa's drive on to the stumps with Aaron Finch out of his crease. Kallis looked particularly unhappy with the decision, but he had Finch bowled soon after and Pune never looked in the game from there on.
More wickets - Yuvraj Singh, caught behind off a wonderful delivery from L Balaji, and Udit Birla, bowled by Iqbal Abdulla - and a seeming lack of intent on the part of their batsmen further undermined Pune's chase. In need of runs, Uthappa attempted to hit out and that eventually led to his dismissal when he cut Abdulla to Gambhir at point.
Angelo Mathews fought bravely with a 28-ball 40, which included four sixes. However, it was the only bit of fight from Pune. The innings ebbed and faded away, and Pune were bowled out for 106 in the final over, leaving Kolkata with a fair bit of hope, if not much else.