A superbly constructed, unbeaten 75 off just 47 balls from Manoj Tiwary enabled Kolkata Knight Riders to come out of their batting slumber and post a challenging 183 for 5 against Kings XI Punjab at their home ground, Mohali. Comeback man Ajit Agarkar then struck two crucial blows to pave the way for Kolkata’s first win in four games, that by an impressive margin of 39 runs.
The home side were never in the hunt during the tough chase. After an unlucky start, losing the in-form Ravi Bopara (0), who was erroneously declared lbw to Shane Bond, Kolkata kept things tight for a couple of overs before Yuvraj Singh opened up. He began to look in his elements, dispatching Ashok Dinda and Agarkar to the fence on couple of occasions each.
But, the latter had a last laugh when Yuvraj mistimed a quickish short ball and lobbed it straight up in the air, Tiwary taking an amazing catch, diving sideways. Not much later, Agarkar sent back Bisla as well for 22 to peg Punjab back, the batsman not being given room to free his arms by the experienced bowler.
As things turned out, that was the game, with Sri Lankans Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara struggling again.
Earlier, Sourav Ganguly won the toss and decided to take first strike on a belter of a pitch. Kolkata’s innings comprised of two distinct phases – a great start and a sensational end followed by a consolidatory phase in between. 19 runs came off the first over from Brett Lee, Chris Gayle deciding to take on the Aussie speedster returning from a serious injury. But, if Kolkata fans thought it was the beginning of some slam bang viewing to follow, they were completely false.
On the contrary, Gayle’s short blitz ended up being the storm before the calm. The West Indian ended up falling for a disappoint 14 from 12 balls, Shalabh Srivastava getting him with a well-planned shorter one.
Srivastava continued with his good work when he sent back Mandeep Singh as well for 4. The left-armer’s effort, coupled with good support from Vikramjeet Malik, saw Kolkata’s run rate falling drastically, and they were in serious danger of ending up short of a desirable target yet again. Ganguly and Tiwary, who was recalled after his surprise exclusion for the earlier games, went about doing the rebuilding task.
However, the question remained whether they would be able to accelerate in the nick of time. When the strategic break was taken at the end of 9 overs, Kolkata were disappointingly placed at 65 for 2. However, realising the value of runs, Ganguly came out of his shell and timed a couple to the boundary.
Tiwary too joined in the act and played some delectable strokes. But, just when Kolkata seemed to be on the up swing, Ganguly fell for 50. His knock, which consumed 40 balls was a good one, but not electrifying by T20 standards.
Kolkata would have ended up with another under par score, but for the efforts of Tiwary. His late hitting, slamming 21 off the last over bowled by Irfan Pathan, which included two punchy sixes, shifted the momentum back in Kolkata’s favour. Still, the total wasn’t match-winning. But, the Kolkata bowlers were competent enough to keep a hapless Kings XI down.
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