Kolkata Knight Riders were trundling along with Robin Uthappa exhibiting the form that had floated him to the top of the run-getters list this season. As much as it helped him blunt Mitchell Johnson and put Parvinder Awana in his place, Uthappa would have preferred his timing to have deserted him when he chipped Akshar Patel down the ground. On another day it might have fallen well short of long-off as it was intended to, but today he had struck it too well. Akshar 's glee doubled when Manish Pandey got into an awful tangle two balls later. A tuck off the hips resulted in the ball ballooning off the pad, deflecting off his elbow and just about tickled leg stump to complete a double-wicket maiden. More good news lay around the horizon as the Gujarat spinner earned his first national call-up, for the tour of Bangladesh.
Mitchell Johnson has a friendly smile, one he usually hides. However, it was not on display when he rammed Yusuf Pathan high on the bat with a short ball. The batsman had been set up for the pull but some extra pace foiled his intent. Predictably, the next ball was dug in as well, but with some width. Yusuf exploited it with a neat glide over third man. This is when a big fast bowler would snarl or at least stare down his opponent down. Instead, Johnson and Yusuf exchanged broad smiles. Soon after, square leg was sent back. As clear a signal as any for more chin music, Johnson hurled it in full and straight and rapped Yusuf on the pads. The umpire believed it was headed down leg, but replays revealed the double bluff should have worked.
Fielding in the IPL is a mix of the extraordinary and appalling. The 15th over provided more evidence to that claim. Suryakumar Yadav dabbed fine of short third man but this was not bound for the boundary. Rishi Dhawan tracked it down and slide beside it. All he had to do was slap it back into play, but the first attempt failed. Frantically he tried again, but still no luck. The ball was now inches from the boundary and a third swipe at it was to no avail again. As he sheepishly threw the ball back, Virender Sehwag tended to his morale with a slow clap.
Parvinder Awana managed a pin-point yorker but was unable to control the chop back to him. He hunted the deflection down but missed the target at the keeper's end. It was the final over, so any opportunity for a run is welcome. Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine got on their bikes again but Johnson, who was backing up at short fine leg, found his mark. It was too tight for the on-field umpires and things got murkier. George Bailey had positioned himself by the stumps and had flicked one bail off, but since the other was still in place when the throw found its mark, Narine was comfortably run-out.
Rain had knocked the qualifier into the reserve day and though sunny skies greeted both teams, the weather soured towards the evening. The first innings was encroached by a drizzle that resulted in a 20-minute delay. The target for Kings XI Punjab was 164, but more rain invited Duckworth-Lewis into play. The umpires did all they could to usher the game to completion and their resolve was epitomised in the third over when the excited groundsmen began drawing the covers on the ground. But Nigell Llong brusquely waved them back and ensured the requisite five overs were bowled.
Glenn Maxwell was back in the hut. Kings XI were behind on the Duckworth-Lewis equation and the Knight Riders spinners were exploiting their anxiety with aplomb. David Miller needed to come off and a little bit of luck early on purported the belief that it could be his night. He lunged forward to a flatter legs-cutter from Piyush Chawla and played around his front pad. It looked adjacent, the ball had pitched in line and turned off the deck to hit him low on the pad but umpire S Ravi ruled in the batsman's favour. An over later Miller benefited from a drop. Miller was still struggling for solidity when Chawla decided to take both the fielders and the umpire out of the equation. He ripped a legspinner off the deck to cannon into middle stump to propel Knight Riders' advantage.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo