Bowlers set up easy win for Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders 133 for 2 (Yusuf 49*, Kallis 33) beat Rajasthan Royals 132 for 6 (Samson 40, Watson 35, Senanayake 2-26) by eight wickets
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kolkata Knight Riders used the comfort of their home territory to register only their fourth win in the competition, effortlessly beating Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets. Both teams had stuffed their teams with spinners as though it was a fifth day Kanpur pitch, but it was Knight Riders' spinners who strangled Royals' batsmen before Yusuf Pathan and Jacques Kallis pushed the team over the line with 16 balls to spare.
The victory has kept Knight Riders' chances of making it to the playoffs alive, but the task ahead remains extremely difficult; five wins in five matches required from here. Royals, on the other hand, maintained their hold on the third spot on the points table.
At the mid-innings break, Sanju Samson, the top scorer for Royals, had said that he was confident the 132-run total was defendable on a pitch that was slow and afforded turn to the spinners, but Royals' slow bowlers were not able to have the same impact as their counterparts from Knight Riders, with Brad Hogg guilty of dishing out plenty of full tosses. Manvinder Bisla and Gautam Gambhir raced away at the start, adding 41 runs in no time, the highlight of their stay not being the runs they scored, but Bisla's heated exchange with Rahul Dravid. Although both openers were dismissed within 10 balls of each other, Yusuf and Kallis quickly shot down any hopes that might have cropped up for Royals with some lusty hits. Yusuf remained unbeaten on 49, his best score for Knight Riders in his three-year long association with the team.
Royals have an untarnished home record this season, but they have been a shadow of themselves playing away. As they chose to bat, a heavy dose of spin was expected. But Gambhir made a surprise move, opening the bowling with medium pacer Sumit Narwal, but handed the ball to Sachithra Senanayake soon after. Senanayake extracted the juice that was available for the spinners and drew a mistake from Ajinkya Rahane. The batsman stretched out to play an inside out lofted drive, missed the ball as it turned sharply through the gap between bat and pad, and saw the keeper whipping the bails off.
Dravid tried to unsettle Knight Riders' plans by sending James Faulkner at No. 3, but the move yielded just one run. Sanju Samson, the impressive 18-year-old, joined Shane Watson and added 41 runs for the third wicket during which neither batsmen appeared in any trouble. The two picked up singles off the spinners for a couple of overs, before Samson unleashed a meaty punch through extra cover that oozed class off the second ball bowled by Jacques Kallis. He got more adventurous in the next over, smashing a short delivery by Iqbal Abdulla over cow corner, deep into the crowd.
Royals had patiently moved to 71 for 2 after 10 overs when Gambhir introduced Sunil Narine. The bowler's repertoire of variations was all thrown at Watson in the first over, and the batsman, struggling to pick the changes, bowed out of the battle after just five balls. Samson continued to dazzle and looked set for another half-century, but fell in the 18th over trying to clear the long-on boundary. He had a reprieve five balls before when Bisla, the wicketkeeper, got under a leading edge around cover point, but dropped the easiest of chances off Narine. Dravid held himself back till the end and came in at No. 8 to play just three balls, but none of the batsmen who came before him had much of an impact.
Royals' total proved too tiny to pose any problems for Knight Riders, who rounded off their final league match at Eden Gardens with a resounding victory.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo