Robin Uthappa smashed his way to the third fastest half century of the season as Kolkata Knight Riders notched up a comfortable six-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. Put into bat, Kings XI Punjab were restricted to 138 for eight in the stipulated 20 overs at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium.
Led by Uthappa’s blazing knock of 53 off 28 balls, the visitors chased down the target of 139 with 17 balls to spare. KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir continued to lead the team well, scoring 34 off as many deliveries.
Uthappa reached his 50 off 24 balls, before leg-spinner Pradeep Sahu had him trapped in front of wicket to end a fluent opening wicket partnership of 82 runs in just under nine overs.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who had held catches and whose fastest IPL fifty came off 19 balls in 2010 when he played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, tonight struck nine boundaries during his breezy knock.
By the time Uthappa was heading back to the dugout, half the job was done for KKR, who were 93 for one midway into their chase.
Eyeing their third win of the season, KKR required 46 runs in the back 10 with Gambhir in control of the proceedings.
But just then, Gambhir fell to a brilliant catch by Glenn Maxwell, who ran in from the boundary to hold onto the ball. As Gambhir hit the ball in the air, there was no one at midwicket area, and it looked like it would fall in no man’s land. But Maxwell anticipated well and timed his full-stretched dive to perfection and pulled off the catch inches from the ground.
Gambhir made a run-a-ball 34 with the help of three boundaries.
Owing to Uthappa’s assault, Kings XI Punjab bowlers Sandeep Sharma, Kyle Abbott, Mohit Sharma and Maxwell conceded nearly 20 each in their first two overs.
Sahu was the most impressive of KXIP bowlers, returning figures of 2/18 in four overs. Axar Patel went straight through the defence of Manish Pandey (12) to KXIP their third breakthrough.
Shakib Al Hasan (11), who got a life when Manan Vohra made a mess off an easy chance at long-off, got out the very next ball when he skied one to Sandeep Sharma off Patel.
Yusuf Pathan (12) and Suryakumar Yadav (11) were at the crease when victory was achieved, which took KKR to the top of the points table.
Earlier, Shaun Marsh top-scored for the hosts with an unbeaten 56 off 41 balls. The Australian struck five boundaries and a six during his stay in the middle in a rather mediocre outing by the Kings XI Punjab batting line-up.
For KKR, Sunil Narine finished with impressive figures of 2/22, while Morne Morkel had 2/27 from their quota of four overs each.
There was wicket apiece for Umesh Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan.
The total could have been much less had it not been for the 18 runs Marsh and Kyle Abbott (12 not off six balls) plundered in the innings’s last over bowled by Andre Russell.
Invited to bat after the coin landed in favour KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, Kings IX Punjab struggled to get going in the beginning, losing Manan Vohra (8) with just 21 runs on the board in the fourth over.
Experienced opener Murali Vijay spent some time in the middle, but could not manage more than 26 runs in 22 balls before being foxed by a Piyush Chawla googly.
Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (8) did not last long and became Sunil Narine’s first victim since his comeback as the ace spinner had the batsman caught behind.
The hosts were dealt a body blow when off-spinner Yusuf Pathan had skipper David Miller (6) caught behind with a delivery that cramped him for room.
Things only got worse for Kings XI Punjab as Narine sent back the dangerous Glenn Maxwell (4) whose switch hit could not clear Piyush Chawla at cover.
Even as the slide continued for Kings XI Punjab, Shaun Marsh held one end firm through singles, twos and the occasional boundaries.
Looking for their second win of the season, what badly affected the home side was the lack of partnership through the innings, thanks to the failure of its star batsmen at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium. 26 was the highest partnership of the innings.
Axar Patel displayed poor temperament and was dismissed by Umesh Yadav’s slow off-cutter. Marsh broke the silence in the stands with a spanking pull shot off Morne Morkel.
However, Mohit Sharma came and went, falling to a short-pitched delivery from Morkel. Next man Pradeep Sahu was run out while going for a non-existent second run, leaving Marsh frustrated.