Only Sourav Ganguly can do it. He may have retired from international cricket, but continues to invite wrath from all over, only to silence the murmurs in one go. Prior to the crucial game against Deccan Chargers, there were calls for Ganguly to go down the order and allow big hitters to bat at the top.
And these were fair observations, as Ganguly had been sluggish throughout the series bar a 50, thereby allowing the opposition to get on top of Kolkata ever so often. But, Ganguly being Ganguly preferred playing the bad boy and, like so many times before, made it work and paved the way for his side’s much sought-after 24-run win.
The former Indian skipper slammed a memorable 88, rolling back the years at his home ground Eden Gardens to set up a challenging target of 182 for Deccan Chargers, with some good assistance from David Hussey. All the bowlers then chipped in and ensured that Deccan were always behind in the race despite a whirlwind start.
Herschelle Gibbs was the only one who kept Deccan’s hope alive with a half-century. But, on a pitch that was getting slower by the second, Kolkata bowled smartly and even a defiant 45 by Andrew Symonds could not save the defending champions from plummeting into further trouble.
Forget the rest, even Kolkata’s win. This was Ganguly’s game. Yet again, things weren’t easy for the beleaguered skipper and his men. Batting first, Kolkata were struggling at 68 for 3 after Chris Gayle and Cheteshwar Pujara fell early, the former failing to read an off-cutter from Symonds while the latter was also done in by the same bowler’s gentle medium pace.
A lot depended on Manoj Tiwary, but a disappointing shot against Pragyan Ojha put an end to his tale. The only positive to emerge from the disastrous start was Ganguly was finding his feet at other end.
He was in his elements from ball one, flicking it off his hips for a boundary. And, there was no looking back. He cut with confidence and was in his own when he lofted Kemar Roach for a maximum to long on. The timing was back and so were the gaps. All he needed now was support from the other end. That arrived in the form of Hussey.
Looking to resurrect the innings, Hussey collected a number ofn risk-free singles at the start of his innings, instead of trying to match Ganguly’s serene strokeplay. The duo gathered 78 in 7.3 overs, with some help from the opposition skipper as well, Gilchrist missing a Ganguly stumping when on 67 — another indication that this was Ganguly’s day.
Kolkata celebrated it by amassing 65 runs from the final five overs. Hussey got into the act with a couple of mighty sixes.
Chasing 182, Deccan were more than breezy in their start, aided by debutante offspinner Mohnish Parmar, who was asked to open the bowling. The first three overs went for plenty before Ajit Agarkar, who was also punched for a couple of boundaries, struck the telling blow by getting Gilchrist to mistime one.
Gibbs continued to flourish at the other end, with his typically wristy strokeplay. However, some tight bowling from Kolkata meant the run-rate was pegged back and once Shane Bond returned to end Gibbs’ stay, only the formalities remained.
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