Kolkata Knight Riders appears to be losing momentum : Champions in the 2012 and 2014 editions of Indian Premier League (IPL), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), who had a reasonably good run in the league stage of 2016 edition, seems to be losing momentum as the tournament approaches the ‘business end’.
With back-to-back defeats (against RCB at Kolkata and GL at Kanpur), they have been pushed down to the fourth position on the Points Table with 14 points from 13 games. Fifth placed Mumbai Indians (MI) also have the same number of points but it’s just the positive NRR of 0.022 that comes as a saving grace.
After a massive defeat by 9 wickets at their home ground, Eden Gardens, against RCB, KKR moved to Kanpur for their pen-ultimate league encounter with Gujarat Lions (GL) at Green Park, Kanpur.
GL, strengthened by the return of their skipper, Suresh Raina, were out to prove a point and establish their supremacy in the tournament.
Birth of his daughter seems to have given more energy and enthusiasm to Raina. Winning the toss, he put KKR into bat.
KKR had a shaky start with their skipper Gambhir being let off twice. In the final delivery of the second over bowled by Dhawal Kulkarni, Gambhir attempted to pull one that was pitched outside the off-stump. Missing on the timing he only succeeded in getting a top edge. The ball ballooned up and found Praveen Kumar, who completely messed up, trying to hold on the catch and was injured in the process.
Praveen Kumar got the taste of ‘missing a wicket’, when in the fifth-delivery of the third over, he bowled a cutter to Gambhir. The ball moved away from the left-hander with an extra bounce. However, Gambhir nicked and deflected the ball towards the third-man region. The ball sailed over Dwayne Smith’s head, who leapt up and tried to hold on to the catch but succeeded only in flooring it.
The KKR skipper was twice lucky. But ‘lady luck’ deserted him in the first delivery of the fourth over. Uthappa bunted a back-of-a-length delivery on the middle stump bowled by Dhawal Kulkarni to the short mid-wicket region where Shadab Jakati was fielding and set out for a run.
Uthappa slipped and fell in the mid-pitch. Jakati, in a flash, picked up the ball and dislodged the stumps at the striking end, by a direct hit. Gambhir was found short of the crease and was unfortunately ‘run-out’.
This was the beginning of the disaster for KKR. They were 22 runs for the loss of 1 wicket in 3.1 overs.
Thereafter in a span of 8 overs, Dwayne Smith removed Manish Pandey (1), Robin Uthappa (25), Piyush Chawla (11), who was promoted up the order, and Shakib al Hasan (3), thereby reducing KKR to a situation of 61 runs for the loss of 5 wickets in 11.3 overs.
Incidentally, while on his individual score of 2 runs, Uthappa completed 5,000 runs in T20 format of the game.
The highlight of KKR innings was the sixth-wicket partnership of 41 runs in 4.2 overs between Yusuf Pathan and Surya Kumar Yadav (17).
Pathan was the highest scorer with 36 runs off 36 balls with 3 fours and a solitary six.
With the departure of Yusuf Pathan, at the team score of 120 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in 18.2 overs, it was all over for KKR, as their innings ended with 124 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in 20 overs.
Dwayne Smith returned with an analysis of 4-0-8-4, one of the best analysis in this format of the game.
Chasing 125 runs, a rejuvenated GL skipper, Suresh Raina scored an unbeaten 53* runs off 36 balls, studded with 7 fours and a six at a strike rate of 147.22 and played a key role in achieving the target. His half-century came off 33 balls with 7 fours and a six.
Raina also had a good 59 runs partnership in 6.0 overs alongwith Aaron Finch (26) for the fourth-wicket.
GL won the match by 6 wickets with 39 balls to spare.
Dwayne Smith was adjudged the Player of the Match.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, he said, “I am not one to be frustrated if I don”t get the ball. But I”m willing to bowl. I don”t really bowl in the nets. I just back myself. Jerome Taylor is there in Mumbai along with Pollard. Looking forward to it.”
Visibly upset, Gambhir, skipper KKR said, “I thought we did not turn up properly. It was a decent wicket. We could have scored 150-160. When you end up with 124 it is difficult to restrict the opposition. It was one of those days where nothing worked for us.”
An elated GL skipper, Raina said, “These last two games are important for us. Smith bowled well. He is not just a batsman. I always feel he is an allrounder and that set the game up for us. I am glad I won the toss. We need to play well against Mumbai Indians on Saturday. Praveen (Kumar, who was injured, tying to take Gambhir’s catch) is fine. Hopefully, he will be back.”
Now with just one more game to go in the league stage, KKR would be required to ‘pull up themselves’ and go for the kill.
They take on the table-toppers, Sun Risers Hyderabad at Eden Gardens, a couple of days later. A win would ensure their berth in the ‘play-offs’. However, a defeat would mean that their entry (backdoor) would be decided by the performance or otherwise of other teams.