No happy homecoming for Ganguly
Kolkata Knight Riders 150 for 5 (Gambhir 56, Mathews 2-17) beat Pune Warriors 143 for 8 (de lange 3-34, Narine 1-13) by seven runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The pre-match hype was all about Sourav Ganguly taking on his former team at his nursery - Eden Gardens. He played a part in giving his struggling Pune Warriors a chance to upstage Kolkata Knight Riders, but in a bitter twist, his dismissal was the turning point, allowing the hosts to clinch a seven-run win. In a match that ebbed and flowed, Angelo Mathews halted Knight Riders' charge with a flurry of sixes, but with support diminishing at the other end, he failed to muscle Warriors to victory.
It wasn't the homecoming Ganguly hoped for. Having done the hard work to restrict Knight Riders to a middling 150 after a rousing start, Warriors were tottering at 55 for 5. Ganguly curiously demoted himself to No. 7 and the chants for his arrival grew louder with the fall of every top-order wicket. Sunil Narine's variations left Ganguly fighting for dear life, but having survived the spell, he ran out of steam as Knight Riders found some late inspiration in the field.
Knight Riders' win brought back memories of a similar game against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. A strong top-order base was followed by a collapse, before the bowlers starred. At Eden Gardens today, an opening stand of 113 between Gautam Gambhir and Brendon McCullum gave them the foundation to entertain thoughts of 200 and beyond, but the other batsmen batted as if on a different wicket and managed only 37 runs in the last 7.3 overs.
The stand between Gambhir and McCullum was their third of more than fifty in this IPL. They ransacked 46 runs off three overs to end the Powerplay on an imposing 68 for no loss. Sensing the spinners would play a crucial role in containing the run-rate on this sluggish pitch, Ganguly brought on Michael Clarke. Gambhir milked the singles by dabbing the seamers to third man. There were no pressure tactics applied by Warriors till the tenth over, when the wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa stood up to the stumps to prevent the batsmen from using their feet. Gambhir continued coming down the track but he failed to launch Murali Kartik over long-off, where he was caught by Mithun Manhas.
It was the start of the slide for Knight Riders. After hammering 106 off 11 overs, Knight Riders managed only 44 in the last nine - their worst performance in all IPL seasons. Following McCullum's fall in the 14th over, they scored only one more boundary.
The speed of Marchant de Lange, however, gave Knight Riders a rousing start with the ball as the South African beat Clarke for pace and clipped the bails. The Warriors top order perished in the quest for quick runs, though Steven Smith was unlucky to be given lbw because the umpire failed to spot an inside edge.
Walking in later than anticipated, Ganguly was silenced by Narine with four scoreless deliveries. He then slapped Jacques Kallis over mid-off and upper cut him over the slips to perk up Warriors. Ganguly's edginess against Narine, however, was one of the more memorable battles in the chase. As the ball spun and gripped, Ganguly poked and prodded like he was batting in the dark. Edges sneaked past the slips and it seemed like a wicket was around the corner.
Three consecutive sixes over the leg side by Mathews, off Yusuf Pathan, meant that Warriors needed 42 off the last five. Narine slowed down Warriors with another parsimonious over to Ganguly, in which he gave just four. A flat six by Ganguly off Rajat Bhatia added another twist, but three balls later, he holed out to the deep.
Narine's spell, which featured 14 dots balls, and some inspired fielding by Laxmi Ratan Shukla put the target out of Warriors' reach.
Kolkata loyalists got what they wanted - a win, plus a contribution from Ganguly. What couldn't be measured, though, was how many of the 60,000 odd that showed up were rooting for a Warriors win.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo