The rescue act
Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa - the most prolific pair in the Indian Twenty20 competition this season - have made Kolkata a force to reckon with by repeatedly combining to guide their side to victory. Their 158-run stand for the second wicket - the second highest in the tournament - against Pune on April 26 stood out as the partnership of the week.
The top four Pune batsmen took Kolkata's bowlers apart, after Gambhir put them in to bat at the toss. The impressive batting display ensured that they set a sizable 183-run target. With the asking rate hovering over nine at the onset, Kolkata needed quick runs upfront. Opener, Sunil Narine, provided early fireworks by thumping three fours in the first two overs, before falling in the third. His departure brought Robin Uthappa to the fore. Imran Tahir induced a swirling top edge from Uthappa in his first over, but Jaydev Unadkat dropped it, falling backwards at deep midwicket.
He made them pay for the error and smashed offspinner Washington Sundar for back-to-back sixes down the ground. In all, Uthappa clubbed seven fours and six sixes in his 47-ball 87, which is his highest score in the competition, before he departed. He scored at a strike rate of 185, and hammered 57 runs off 25 balls pitched on good length, 49 of which came against spin. Gambhir stood tall at the other end as well and thumped 62 off 46. The duo scored at 11.15 runs an over in the 14.1 overs that they batted together. The attacking display helped Kolkata comfortably end the chase with 11 balls to spare.
What they said:
"It is very important to respect the momentum we have created for ourselves. Teams tend to fall off in the second half of the tournament, so it is something we spoke about. I am enjoying my keeping, I think MS has set the benchmark for Indian keepers, so I'm slowly but surely getting there. The ball was still gripping, but this wicket got better to bat on in the second innings."
Robin Uthappa on the importance of remaining focused
Gambhir, Uthappa trump Delhi with commanding display
Gambhir and Uthappa's combined for a 108-run stand, for the second wicket, that helped Kolkata comfortably beat by seven wickets, with 22 balls to spare, at Eden Gardens, Kolkata on April 28.
Having been put in to bat first, Delhi was off to a flier, with Sanju Samson leading the way by targeting the seamers. He added a quick fire 38-ball 60 before he departed. His innings gave Delhi the impetus to post a respectable 160 in their 20 overs. Kolkata needed eight an over from the onset, and opener Sunil Narine's departure in the second over brought Gambhir and Uthappa together.
The duo ensured that Delhi remained wicketless for the next 11 overs. Their 108-run partnership came of just 66 balls and guided Kolkata to a commanding position. In eight overs, Kolkata had knocked off half the runs. Uthappa finally departed for a 33-ball 59, which included five fours and four sixes, while Gambhir remained unbeaten and took his side over the line with 22 balls to spare.
What they said:
"At one stage I was tempted to bat first but we have been chasing really well so stuck to that. Every player we pick we pick with a lot of trust, and if you show trust they repay it. We can put some more effort in our fielding, save 10 or 15 runs, will be easier to chase it down."
Gautam Gambhir on his winning strategy
Dhawan, Warner bully Punjab
A 107-run opening stand between Shikhar Dhawan and David Warner led Hyderabad to their fifth win in nine matches, as they comfortably over powered Punjab - on a placid batting surface - by 26 runs at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Chandigarh on April 28.
Glenn Maxwell, Punjab's captain, put Hyderabad in to bat first, but the move backfired as the aggressive Hyderabad openers tore into the seamers early. While Ishant Sharma conceded just 3 in the first over, Anureet Singh faltered with his line and was dispatched for successive boundaries in the next. Ishant and Mohit Sharma were then smashed for three more boundaries in the next two overs, prompting Maxwell to opt for spin from Axar Patel. However, Warner switched gears and clobbered him for two sixes and a four in his first over. The duo plundered 60 in the Powerplay, their best this season.
Warner and Dhawan hit five boundaries in the first five overs of the innings and six more between overs 6 and 10. Warner finally fell in the 10th over, for a 27-ball 51, looking to swat Glenn Maxwell, while Dhawan departed for a 48-ball 77. The opening platform helped Hyderabad amass 207, which proved to be out of Punjab's reach.
What they said:
"We had to come out with a positive mindset. The wicket played fantastic. Fantastic knock from Marsh. This venue is quite hard under lights; a few basic drops. Shikhar wanted to play his natural game, it was the Shikhar we all know. Kane is a fantastic player. The way he comes in and plays so freely and so elegantly is great for the team. We tried a few change-ups, it was quite dewy, credit to Sos [Marsh]."
David Warner on being positive through the match