In what turned out to be a fitting finale to a splendid season of Pepsi IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders defeated Kings XI Punjab by three wickets in a thrilling last-over finish in Bengaluru. While KXIP posted a mammoth 199 for four – thanks to a brilliant century by Wriddhiman Saha – KKR ensured they were up to the mark during the chase despite losing routine wickets. Their cause was fuelled by a match-winning 94 (off 50 balls) by Manish Pandey. This is the Knight Riders’ second title triumph, after their maiden win back in 2011.
Powerplay: Knights Riders choke touted top order
Earlier, Gautam Gambhir won the toss and chose to field first. For KXIP, Virender Sehwag and Manan Vohra came atop the order. And while the duo made a fluent start, their partnership was broken for 23 by Umesh Yadav in the fourth over; the KKR pacer had Sehwag (7) caught by Gambhir at mid-off. Then, George Bailey unexpectedly promoted himself up to No.3. However, his opposite number’s first bowling change – in form of Sunil Narine – saw the end of the KXIP skipper. The deceptive off-spinner bowled Bailey (1) out off the very first ball of the sixth over, courtesy a straighter one.
And thanks to a tidy two-run final powerplay over, the initial phase cost KKR a mere 32 runs – KXIP’s lowest powerplay score of the season – for two wickets.
Middle Overs: Vohra, Saha turn the tide
As a result of the two early jolts, KXIP had to rebuild in the middle stages. And after a relatively quiet seventh over, both Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha opened their shoulders and plundered 14 off the next one. But by the halfway stage KKR had again pulled things back as the scorecard read 58 for two.
However, Wriddhiman Saha then took matters in his own hands and went after the opposition bowlers. He helped plunder 34 runs off the next three overs. And then, in the 14th over – which was bowler by Narine – the diminutive wicketkeeper batsman struck a six and followed it up with two fours to bring up his half-century in 29 balls. And later in the same over, Vohra also brought up his 50 with a four. Those six deliveries by Narine ended up costing KKR 19 runs. The on-song duo then topped it off by scoring 20 runs off the next over, bowled by Morne Morkel.
Thanks to this onslaught, the scorecard read 131 for two after 15 overs; it also saw the third-wicket stand go past the 100-run mark. In all, 99 runs were scored during the crucial nine-over middle phase.
Final Stretch: It’s Saha all the way
In the 16th over, both Saha and Vohra survived close calls – while the former was dropped by Narine off his own bowling, the latter got a respite after Robin Uthappa botched a stumping chance. Saha capitilised on the second life and struck two fours and a maximum in the next over, which ended up costing a total of 19 runs. However, KXIP lost Vohra (67) soon thereafter; he was caught by Piyush Chawla off his own bowling.
With the scorecard reading 159 for three in 17.1 overs, Glenn Maxwell (0) joined the well-set Saha. However, the big-hitting batsman perished off the first ball he faced while reverse-sweeping Chawla; he ended up finding the safe hands of Morkel at short-thirdman.
However, it was clearly Saha’s night. The KXIP batsman struck Narine for a six and four, and then, brought up his century off another big hit off the wily spinner. His 49-ball 100 marked the first time that a player has reached triple digits in an IPL Final. Thanks to Saha’s exploits, the otherwise stingy Narine gave away 17 runs off his fourth over; in fact, his bowling figures for the night read 4-0-46-1, making him the most expensive of KKR bowlers.
And in the final over of the innings, Saha went after Yadav and helped pick 12 runs off him. As a result, KXIP finished at a healthy 199 for four after 20 overs, despite getting their slowest start of the tournament.
Powerplay: Gambhir, Pandey take charge after Uthappa’s dismissal
KKR’s reply suffered a big setback early on as the ever-reliable Uthappa (5) holed out to Akshar Patel off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson in the very first over. But Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey went about undeterred as they tried to approach the steep run-chase with a positive mindset. They took kept the run-rate around the 10-an-over mark as they picked up routine boundaries.
They brought up the KKR 50 in the sixth over, and by the end of the powerplay, they had taken the score to 59. They had clearly neautralised the impact felt by Uthappa’s first-over departure.
Middle Overs: Wickets, ticking scorecard make for an interesting climax
But with the introduction of spin in the form of Karanveer Singh, KXIP dealt another big blow. The young leggie got rid of Gambhir (23) as he was going for a big one off the first ball of the seventh over. But Pandey continued to rally on in the company of Yusuf Pathan. Thanks to a few big strikes, they took the KKR score to 89 for two at the halfway point.
Pandey then brought up his 50 in the 11th over with a six off Parvinder Awana. The KKR 100 also came up in the same over as 18 runs were scored off it. But then, Akshar Patel bowled a three-run 12th over – to follow up his two-run 10th – to put the pressure back on KKR. But thanks to a big 18-run Lakshmipathy Balaji over – which was laced with two Yusuf Pathan sixes – the score reached 128 for two after 13.
But the hard-hitting Pathan’s (36) 22-ball cameo ended when he holed out to Maxwell in the deep off the bowling of Karanveer Singh. However, Pandey – who struck a maximum and a six immediately after the wicket – ensured the 14th over went for 14 runs. By the end of the 15th over, KKR reached 151 for three, courtesy Pandey and Shakib Al Hasan.
Final Stretch: Piyush helps KKR pull off a last-over thriller
With the run-chase equation reading 49 off 30 balls, the game was headed to an interesting finish. While KKR needed both Pandey and Shakib to go about their business the way they had been, KXIP needed a breakthrough. They got just that when off the third ball of the 16th over, Shakib was run out by Bailey, to leave KKR on 156 for four. However, that over yielded 10 crucial runs, leaving the run-chase equation on 39 off 24 balls and Ryan ten Doeschate joining forces with Pandey.
Karanveer Singh then struck a blow by getting rid of ten Doeschate (4), after getting hit for a six by Pandey. But the delivery after the wicket cost KXIP another maximum, thanks to another maximum by Pnadey – who reached the nineties with that strike. He then dispatched the spinner for a four to put the pressure back on the bowling side. However, in a match where the momentum was swinging wildly towards the end, Pandey (94) departed off the final ball of the 17th over.
With 21 required off 18 balls, KKR had two new batsmen – Suryakumar Yadav and Piyush Chawla – at the crease. Despite some tight bowling from Akshar Patel – who finished with figures of 4-0-21-0 – the two batsmen brought the run-chase equation down to 15 off 12 balls. Mitchell Johnson, who was handed the responsibility of bowling the all-important 19th over, then got rid of Yadav (5).
KXIP were clearly in with a shot with all of KKR’s recognised batsmen back in the dugout and Narine taking strike opposite Chawla. And after bowling five tight deliveries, Johnson pitched a short one at the end, which was struck for a big six over square-leg by Chawla. The leg-spinner then struck the winning four for his team with three balls to spare.
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