Spinners, Yusuf lead Knight Riders into playoffs
Kolkata Knight Riders 171 for 6 (Yusuf 52, Pandey 48, Hooda 2-16) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 148 for 8 (Dhawan 51, Narine 3-26, Kuldeep 2-28) by 22 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Home advantage counts. But only if you are well-equipped to use it. With four spin options to call upon on a parched Eden Gardens pitch, Kolkata Knight Riders strangled Sunrisers Hyderabad to defend 171 and pull off a 22-run victory. The win helped them secure a playoff berth, while ending Mumbai Indians' journey in the tournament.
Sunil Narine delivered his most incisive bowling spell of the tournament, with figures of 3 for 26 in four overs. His partner in crime was Kuldeep Yadav, the 21-year-old chinaman bowler who had replaced Piyush Chawla in the Knight Riders XI. Kuldeep showed a willingness to flight the ball and repeatedly beat the batsmen with his sharp turn and canny googlies. Figures of 2 for 28, impressive as they are, do not do justice to the skill with which he bowled or the impact he made. As Sunrisers fell further and further behind, the match moved towards a tame finish.
Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan set the match up after Knight Riders slipped to 57 for 3 in the eighth over. The pair added 87 off just 49 balls, with Pandey doing most of the running early on. He slog-swept Karn Sharma, the legspinner, for consecutive sixes over midwicket in the ninth over to trigger a surge in boundaries.
As the partnership progressed and Yusuf joined the run-fest, the two batsmen set Knight Riders up for a 180 plus total. But Pandey's dismissal for a 30-ball 48 - he carved a wide full toss from Bhuvneshwar Kumar straight to Kane Williamson at backward point, in the 16th over - sapped momentum out of Knight Riders' innings.
Mustafizur Rahman brought out his usual display of well-disguised cutters to tie the batsmen down in the 17th and 19th overs. Barinder Sran, who bowled the 18th over, and Bhuvneshwar, who bowled the 20th, executed their slower variations with exquisite control. The lower-order batsmen found it hard to adjust to the slow pace of the wicket and even Yusuf lost his timing as the ball got older. Knight Riders managed just 27 off 26 after Pandey's dismissal, finishing with 171 for 6.
In hindsight, Knight Riders' struggles in the final few overs was an ominous sign for Sunrisers. On a slow, disintegrating wicket, Knight Riders opened the bowling with Yusuf and liberally drew upon their spin reserves throughout the innings.
When Narine was introduced in the fourth over, David Warner was determined not to let him settle. But that effort lasted just three balls. After an unsuccessful attempt at a reverse-sweep and a swat over wide mid-on for six, Warner was beaten by a fuller, flighted off-break that pitched just outside leg and turned sharply to cannon into leg stump.
For a while thereafter, Shikhar Dhawan kept Sunrisers' alive with a 30-ball 51 that included four fours and three sixes. While he was the beneficiary of a number of half-volleys on the pads, Dhawan showed glimpses of the sweet timing that comes so easily when he is at his best. But when a slog sweep off Kuldeep in the 12th over found Colin Munro at deep mid-wicket, the Sunrisers innings went off the rails.
Incoming batsmen found the spinners difficult to get away and perished in search of big shots. Seven wickets fell for 58 runs between the 12th over and the 20th, as Sunrisers lost their way in an anti-climactic denouement.
Knight Riders' clutch victory came despite the absence of Andre Russell due to a leg injury. That is an indicator of the depth in their squad and will be a source of confidence in the playoffs.