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Too many chinks in Kolkata's armour

It's hard to imagine a 104-run partnership from just 55 balls being intrinsically worthless, especially in the Twenty20 format where such associations are usually 24-carat gold. It's also difficult to think of an occasion when the margin, nine runs, masked what was a yawn-inducing mismatch for such long periods. But for David Hussey and Wriddhiman Saha, the Knight Riders were abject with the bat, a parody of the side that looked like it might sweep all before it after the opening two games.

This was their fourth loss in succession, and though Sourav Ganguly tried to put a brave face on it by speaking of five home games to come, the downward spiral will only continue unless more batsmen offer the splendid Hussey some sort of support.

This was a game that Kolkata could have won, and they'll look back ruefully at two decisive passages of play when they were out in the field. At the fall of the fifth wicket, with a once-flourishing Punjab innings in disarray, Kumar Sangakkara shrugged off a side strain to reemerge into the noisy cauldron. His partnership with Irfan Pathan, the Man of the Match, was subsequently worth 49, and it gave the team something to build on.

Kolkata would argue that he shouldn't have left the physio's table in the first place. Before he retired hurt, he had gloved one behind off Ashok Dinda, but the vociferous appeal met with only casual indifference from I Shivram.

The second blow to their fragile confidence came in the final over. A total of 157 from 19 was decent, but it certainly wasn't intimidating. Once Piyush Chawla cheekily nudged and smacked Ishant Sharma for three fours and a six though, the required rate jumped up by nearly one an over.

"It gave us just a bit of an injection," said Tom Moody, the Punjab coach, later. "We knew we were probably 20 runs short, but it gave us some momentum to take into our bowling."

Different coaches and players have vastly different ideas about momentum, but the rousing finale with the bat certainly appeared to inspire the Punjab team's opening bowlers. Both Pathan and Sreesanth bowled outstanding spells, and the fact that both employ such dissimilar methods made it doubly difficult for batsmen to settle.

"He bowls away [from the right-hander] and I bowl in," said Pathan later. "It's a good combination, isn't it?"

A Kolkata line-up adapting to life without Brendon McCullum and Ricky Ponting simply folded, and by the time VRV Singh castled Laxmi Ratan Shukla, half the innings was gone with only 50 on the board. They needed 94 from the last 36 balls and what followed was strictly of the stable door-horse bolted variety. Without some more armour, these Knights, like the one that John Keats wrote about, will soon be palely loitering.