Gambhir, Kallis set up thumping win
Kolkata Knight Riders 160 for 1 (Gambhir 75*, Kallis 80*) beat Rajasthan Royals 159 (Dravid 35, Taylor 35*) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kolkata Knight Riders won by nine wickets and with nine deliveries to spare. It shouldn't have been that easy but Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis starred in a supremely well-paced chase as Kolkata successfully hunted down a potentially tough 160-run target on a sluggish track in Jaipur.
The first game-seizing moment of the chase came in the sixth over, bowled by Amit Singh. Kolkata were 44 for 1 from five overs and it was obvious that they had to fully utilise the new ball and the Powerplay on this slow track. It was an over that could have tilted the game either way: Amit tried to keep it tight, Gambhir took risks, two shots eluded palms of fielders in the off side but not by much, and Gambhir looted 18 runs. He flat-batted the first ball past the diving Ross Taylor at extra cover, slashed the third past the diving Abhishek Raut at point, glanced the fourth to fine-leg, and crashed the final delivery over mid-off.
The second turning point was Gambhir's contest with Shane Warne, who introduced himself in the seventh over. Gambhir cut his third delivery through the covers, and slog swept the first ball of the 10th over to collect another four. When Warne gave himself another over, to try and pick up a wicket, Gambhir sashayed down the track and scythed a flighted delivery through extra cover. By the end of that over, Kolkata only needed 58 runs from 48 balls and Gambhir and Kallis stayed till the end to achieve a comfortable win.
Gambhir found great support in Kallis, who was instrumental in starting the chase in a positive fashion. He lifted Ashok Menaria's left-arm spin for a four and a six over long-off in the third over, whipped Shane Watson to midwicket and slashed Nayan Doshi through backward point. He dropped anchor once Gambhir took over the baton.
Rajasthan would probably wish they had played Shaun Tait to create wicket-taking opportunities but they had put up a pretty decent batting effort. Fuelled by calculated aggression from Rahul Dravid and Menaria, who seemed to be aiming for something around 160, Rajasthan reached 75 for 1 from 11 overs. It seemed at that stage that their job, especially Dravid's, was done and it was time to hand the reins over to Shane Watson and Ross Taylor.
In the 12th over, Yusuf Pathan had a double strike - Dravid didn't connect with a slog and Menaria swatted a return catch, and the stage was set for the two big hitters. Rajasthan seized momentum by looting 14 runs in the 16th over with Taylor spanking a long hop and a full toss from L Balaji for sixes.
There was a mini-contest too on show: Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh's captain,who saw Watson wreck their side only few days back was entrusted with the task of bowling at him. Shakib himself had just given 26 runs from 20 deliveries to Watson on that day and so, it wasn't going to be a one-sided contest. Watson heaved Shakib Al Hasan for a straight six in the 14th over and slog-swept him over wide midwicket for another six in the 17th over. Shakib slowed up the pace on the next delivery and Watson was bowled as he missed another attempted slog sweep. Rajasthan were 125 for 4 at that stage, and Taylor stayed till the end to guide them to a good total. But they were thwarted by a fabulous captain's knock from Gambhir.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo