Kolkata Knight Riders rode on the young shoulders of Kuldeep Yadav and Suryakumar Yadav to record a nervy three-wicket win against Perth Scorchers last night (Wednesday) and seal a semi-final place in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
Such has been the Indian Premier League champions’ run that they have managed to wriggle out of tight situations with somebody or the other rising to the challenge.
Last night, they were in trouble chasing Perth’s 151 and were struggling at 87-5 in the 15th over, needing another 65 in 35 balls. But the 24-year-old Suryakumar shored Kolkata up with a blazing 43 not out off 19 balls, smashing four sixes and a four.
The Perth bowlers had done really well to take the game to the last over with the pace duo of Joel Paris (1-19) and Jason Behrendorff (1-28) bowling well early on and then Yasir Arafat keeping it tight in the death overs.
But with 24 required off 12 balls, Suryakumar clobbered Nathan Coulter-Nile for two sixes in the last two balls of the penultimate over before Piyush Chawla scored the winning runs in the last over.
Suryakumar admitted it was the most difficult innings of his Twenty20 career. “I feel this has been the most high pressure game I have played,” he said.
“I have never played the role of a finisher for KKR. I have been trying for quite some time now to finish games but was never able to play that role successfully.
“I tried finishing games in the IPL as well but I was making mistakes. Even in the last game against Lahore Lions, though I had a very small role to play in that run-chase, that innings gave me the confidence that I can play my role to good effect. I carried that confidence into this game which I guess helped us in winning the game,” he added.
Earlier, 19-year-old Kuldeep Yadav (3-24) bamboozled the Perth batsmen in the company of senior pro Sunil Narine (4-31) as the Big Bash champions huffed and puffed their way to 151-7 in 20 overs.
Captain and opener Adam Voges (71 not out off 52 balls) carried the bat while the rest, barring his opening partner Craig Simmons (39 off 30 balls), struggled to get into double figures with the Kolkata spinners holding sway.
The 34-year old Voges was particularly severe on anything that was pitched short and timed his pull shots nicely, scoring nearly half his runs in the midwicket region.
Despite being the set batsman, he did not get much of the strike in the final five overs and could only watch as wickets continued to fall at the other end.
From 106 for two heading into the final five, Perth could only add a further 45 runs, losing five wickets in the process.
The match was pitted as a battle between the Perth batsmen and the Kolkata spinners. It certainly shaped that way, with Kolkata using 16 overs of spin.
Not surprisingly, Narine was the most successful bowler with four wickets despite conceding 31 runs. In the earlier two matches, the Trinidad spinner had conceded not more than nine runs (4-0-9-1 and 4-1-9-3).
It was Kolkata’s 12 victory on the trot with the sequence beginning in the 2014 IPL and it has continued in this tournament which has assured them a spot in the last four.
Captain Gautam Gambhir believes the hunger for success is driving the team’s dream run.
“There is a lot of hunger in the dressing room and guys have taken up great responsibilities. It was an unbelievable innings from Suryakumar Yadav. He has got a great head on his shoulders and a great future.
“Kuldeep Yadav too is in the same league. We needed someone who can complement Sunil, he is someone who can. Overall we are looking good,” he added.
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