Sparkling Ganguly stars in vital Kolkata victory
Kolkata Knight Riders 181 for 6 (Ganguly 88, Hussey 31, Symonds 2-26, Jaskaran 2-18) beat Deccan Chargers 157 for 5 (Gibbs 50, Symonds 45) by 24 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Inspired by their captain and urged on by the cauldron that is the Eden Gardens, Kolkata Knight Riders roared back into the competition with a clinical win over Deccan Chargers. A splendid 88 from Ganguly, who with David Hussey led Kolkata's revival, propelled the home side to a formidable total and the bowlers struck telling blows across Deccan's two-faced chase that petered out tamely. At the halfway stage of their innings Kolkata had 80 on the board, but the last five overs yielded 65 runs to furrow Adam Gilchrist's brow. In stark contrast, Deccan managed just two boundaries in the last six overs and after Shane Bond bowled four consecutive dot balls in the penultimate over the last six deliveries were but a formality. Deccan's nightmare was best summed up by the plight of their captain, Gilchrist, who missed two stumpings and was then knocked over for just nine.
For any Ganguly fan down the years, the man's innings would have warmed the heart. Ganguly had been under the scanner for his sluggish scoring, but it was he and Hussey who added 78 in a steady 7.3 overs after Kolkata were struggling at 68 for 3. From the time he put away the first ball of the game away to the boundary off his hips, and cut the third one past point, Ganguly looked the best he's been this year. But once again Kolkata had failed to make a strong start, with Chris Gayle and Cheteshwar Pujara failing to make an impression. Gayle was utterly clueless about a gentle offcutter from Andrew Symonds that he lobbed high in the air to long-off. Pujara played three classy boundaries but was undone by the slowness of the track, becoming Symonds' second victim. Despite some wayward bowling, Deccan had kept Kolkata to 46 for 2 after the Powerplays.
Ganguly broke the shackles against Kemar Roach with a lovely lofted six over mid-on, judging the length and hitting on the rise, and followed up next ball with a delicate dab to third man for four. He then played a lovely steer for four, timing Rohit's offspin expertly between a strong off-side field.
Hussey's arrival, after Manoj Tiwary played a poor shot to Pragyan Ojha, settled the innings. Ganguly batted on purposefully, collecting boundaries both sides of square off the erratic Harmeet Singh, and reached his second half-century of the tournament by putting an Ojha full toss away for six. Kolkata's scoring rate dipped slightly as Hussey indulged in some sensible single-hunting instead of risky shots, but Ganguly did well to keep it from slipping too far with the odd poached boundary. Only in two overs of their crucial alliance was a four not hit, and Gilchrist erred by missing a stumping when Ganguly was 67. At 116 for 3 after 15 overs, Kolkata had set themselves up for a final push.
Hussey got it going with a straight six off Symonds, moving from 11 from 16 balls to 17 from 17, and received a life when Gilchrist muffed a simple stumping off Ojha. In the same over Ganguly sent the Eden faithful into raptures with three slogged sixes before he fell trying a fourth. Hussey's second six, off the expensive Roach, brought up the 150 and though he and Mathews fell in the space of three deliveries in the penultimate over, Agarkar slapped two boundaries to help the total to 181. The last five overs had cost 65 runs and that proved decisive in the final outcome.
Kolkata's defense of 181 started poorly, with the offspinner Mohnish Parmar thrust into a tough spot on his debut. Herschelle Gibbs took three boundaries off the opening over, two slapped fiercely past square leg and the third delicately run down to third man, and Deccan had 14 on the board. Shane Bond was then driven over extra cover for six by Gibbs, and it seemed the chase was on.
Enter Ajit Agarkar. Gilchrist smacked his first two deliveries for four but top-edged the fourth to midwicket. That left Gibbs and Monish Mishra to rebuild the innings, and Mishra set about it with a lovely stab past the wicketkeeper for four but couldn't press on. He pummelled a few more handy blows in a breezy 29 before falling to an uncontrolled shot, and the runs started to dry up as a wee bit of swing led to more flails at air than solid connections.
Kolkata briefly threatened to throw it away, bowling a series of full tosses and spilling two catches. Gibbs was dropped on 34 by Angelo Mathews, who stuck out his right hand but failed to latch on, and Symonds was also let off by Parmar, though the ball was slapped back fiercely. Three boundaries in one Parmar over proved very handy to Deccan's cause, but then came a double-strike that put the skids on the chase. Gibbs, just after getting to fifty, gave Bond the charge and picked out Hussey at long-off, while Rohit Sharma ate up three dot balls before being bowled off the thigh playing against the turn.
Suddenly the boundaries seemed miles away and the batsmen, especially Symonds, wary of going anywhere near them. Matthews allowed just six from the 17th over and with Deccan needing 48 from 18 deliveries, Agarkar returned to bowl a super eight-run over. Symonds picked up a boundary off the first ball of the 19th over, but that was the first Deccan had managed since the 14th over and that told a story in itself.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo