A spin strangulation on a pacy Eden Gardens pitch and a slice of good fortune gave Kolkata Knight Riders a 17-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday (April 15). Driven by a Robin Uthappa half-century that had a generous hand from Lady Luck, Kolkata put up a competitive 172 for 6 after being asked to bat. Hyderabad’s reply seemed to be on course but got derailed in the middle overs as the defending champions ended on 155 for 6.
Kolkata’s spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Yusuf Pathan bowled a collective nine overs for returns of 3 for 43, stymying the momentum whenever Hyderabad built up some steam to go to the top of the Indian Premier League 2017 table. Narine ended with 1 for 18, with Kuldeep taking 1 for 23. Pathan bowled just one over, but gave up only two runs and got a wicket.
Hyderabad’s chase had begun solidly, with David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan taking 39 runs in the first five overs. But Gautam Gambhir went to his spinners early, and the reward was Dhawan (23 in 22 balls) holing out off Pathan in the seventh over. Kuldeep caused no end of trouble to Warner (26 in 30) meanwhile, with the captain facing 13 balls from the left-arm wristspinner and managing a mere seven runs before being caught at long-off while trying to hit his way out of trouble and a stagnating run rate, leaving Hyderabad 59 for 2 in the tenth over.
Yuvraj Singh was in fluent touch, and the only one of the Hyderabad batsmen who seemed to truly get on top of the spinners, but with partners falling at the other end and the run rate mounting, he mistimed Chris Woakes to long-on to go for a 16-ball 26. With him gone, the scoreboard read 112 for 5 with the equation 61 needed off 31. There was never any danger of Hyderabad chasing that down with most of the big-hitters back in the hut and Kolkata’s bowlers on target. Some late hitting by Bipul Sharma (21 not out in 14) narrowed the margin of defeat down, which could be crucial if net run-rates come into play later on.
Kolkata’s total was built around Uthappa’s half-century, though he had his share of luck. He should have been walking back off the first ball he faced, having got a thick and audible edge through to Naman Ojha off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but somehow the umpire didn’t spot it and he was given not out. He enjoyed more luck during his stay too, with the sweep that took him past a half-century popping out of Dhawan’s hands when he put in a half-dive at the midwicket boundary.
In the next over, Uthappa was adjudged to have got a glove to Ashish Nehra with the ball ballooning up for Ojha to take a splendid diving catch. The on-field umpires, though, went upstairs to check, with the soft signal being ‘out’. However, Abhijit Deshmukh, the third umpire, stunningly over-ruled the on-field call holding that there was no bat or glove involved.
While the IPL playing conditions this season have been changed and the third umpire can check if the ball had hit the bat or gloves, it was surprising that this was done without any clear evidence that the on-field call was the wrong one, with no HotSpot or Snicko to conclusively show Uthappa hadn’t got a glove on it. Then on 52, Uthappa lived on before finally falling for 68 off 39. In between the reprieves, though, Uthappa’s timing was sublime. He was equally harsh on pace and spin and handled the high-quality Hyderabad attack with a panache that brought him four well-timed sixes and five fours.
At the start, Kolkata continued with the ploy of putting Narine in as the opener, but this time it was short-lived, with Bhuvneshwar yorking him for the first of what would be three wickets in an outstanding show.
Rashid Khan then continued the trend of picking up a wicket in his first over, getting the important scalp of Gambhir for just 15, and at 40 for 2 in the Power Play overs, Hyderabad had the early advantage. However, that set the stage for a momentum-shifting stand between Uthappa and Manish Pandey that brought 77 runs in just 52 balls.
Uthappa was the aggressor, while Pandey played the role of rotating the strike. Once his Karnataka team-mate had gone, though, Pandey also stepped on the pedal, eventually making 46 off 35 to continue his good run in the tournament so far. Pathan, meanwhile, found some batting form to be 21 not out off 15. After Pandey fell to Bhuvneshwar, though, Hyderabad managed to pull things back in the last three overs by giving up only 22 runs, but Kolkata still had a competitive total.
Bhuvneshwar’s magnificent effort of 3 for 20 reinforced his standing at the top of the wicket-takers’ table this season, but in the end, the collective excellence of Kolkata’s bowlers proved decisive.