A 158-run partnership between Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir saw Kolkata Knight Riders defeat Rising Pune Supergiant by seven wickets at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Wednesday.
Uthappa, especially, looked in sublime touch during his knock of 87 runs from just 47 deliveries. He slammed as many as seven fours and six sixes during his innings.
The Kodagu-born batsman had a lucky respite, though, early in his innings as he was dropped on 12 by Jaydev Unadkat. The unfortunate bowler in this instance was Imran Tahir and the South African leg-spinner’s day just got worse from there as he conceded 48 runs from his four overs.
Uthappa was well supported by captain Gambhir, who notched up his third half-century of the tournament and now holds the Orange Cap as the leading run-scorer this year. Gambhir’s 46-ball 62 saw him hit six fours and one maximum.
Ben Stokes proved to be a big miss for the hosts as the Pune bowlers struggled to pin Uthappa and Gambhir down. The England all-rounder, who was the Player of the Match against Mumbai Indians on Monday, missed this encounter due to a sore shoulder.
Kolkata had, once again, decided to open the batting with Sunil Narine and the West Indian started off well but he was run-out on 16 after some smart work from MS Dhoni.
Earlier, Gambhir had won the toss and as most captains have decided to do in this year’s Indian Premier League [IPL], he decided to put the opposition into bat.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi got Pune off to a great start, registering their second successive half-century stand. The duo ended up putting on 65 runs for the opening wicket as Rahane scored 46 and Tripathi managed to notch up his fifth consecutive 30+ score before he was dismissed for 38.
Pune captain Steve Smith had got a few starts in the tournament, but he had only the one big score to show for it and this time, he wasn’t going to throw it away.
The Australian batsman paced his innings well as he scored an unbeaten 51 from 37 balls.
Dhoni came out to bat and stepped on the accelerator from the word go as he hit one four and two sixes within his first seven deliveries at the crease. But the former Indian captain’s innings was cut short on 23 [from 11 balls] thanks to a brilliant delivery from left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Kuldeep was easily the most impressive of the bowlers for the Knight Riders. The 22-year-old took two wickets while conceding 31 runs in his four-over spell, which included the stumpings of Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary.
A couple of big hits from Dan Christian at the end of the innings took Pune to 182-5 in their 20 overs, but it wasn’t enough as Kolkata cruised to the target with 11 balls to spare.
Speaking after the match, Gambhir credited his bowlers for restricting the opposition’s batsmen on a pitch that favoured batting.
“I thought we are a good chasing side and we are pretty confident chasing anything. The way the bowlers bowled, restricting an opposition like this to 180 was a very good effort. A lot of the credit needs to go to all the bowlers,” he said.
With this win, the Knight Riders move to the top of the table with 12 points from eight matches. Mumbai have as many points, but Gambhir’s side have a superior run-rate.
On the other hand, Pune are fourth with eight points from as many games.
Rising Pune Supergiant 182-5, 20 overs [Smith 51*, Rahane 46, Kuldeep 2-31] lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 184-3, 18.1 overs [Uthappa 87, Gambhir 62, Unadkat 1-26] by seven wickets.
Player of the Match – Robin Uthappa