Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders thrashed Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets at the Eden Gardens on Friday to keep their hopes afloat in the Indian Premier League.
The struggling Yusuf Pathan reposed Gautam Gambhir’s faith as he finally returned to form with an unbeaten 49 (35 balls, 3x4, 3x6) -- his highest for the Knight Riders this season.
Pathan shared an unbroken 78-run third-wicket partnership with Jacques Kallis, who struck an unbeaten 33, as the duo settled the issue with 16 balls to spare.
Kallis struck Brad Hogg over his head for a boundary to finish the chase as Pathan remained stranded a run shy of a half-century but his coming to form ensured Knight Riders their fourth win from 11 matches.
Chasing a modest 133, the Knight Riders set the tone with Gambhir (12) and Manvinder Bisla (29) sharing a 41-run opening-wicket partnership that came off just 33 balls.
For the Royals, skipper Rahul Dravid’s decision to bat way down the order at No 7 did not help their cause as they were completely outplayed by the hosts.
Bisla stepped out to Chavan for a six over long-on in the third over, and in the next over, struck back-to-back boundaries off Watson as they raced to 35 for none in the fourth over.
Gambhir never seemed in a hurry as he was happy giving strike to Bisla. With the Royals desperate for a breakthrough, there was some heated exchange in the middle when Watson and Bisla engaged in a war of words as both the skippers joined in the middle.
A brilliant stumping of Gambhir by Dishant Yagnik, who stood up to Watson, broke the opening partnership. Bisla too followed suit which brought Pathan to the middle.
The burly right-hander from Baroda straightaway launched the counter attack, slamming Chavan for a huge six over the bowler’s head.
The misfiring Pathan grew in confidence as there were a flurry of sixes from him with little effect from the Royals’ spin duo of Brad Hogg and Chavan as they took the required rate to less than run-a-ball.
With Pathan taking on the Royals bowlers, Kallis was happy to take the singles as the duo put Knight Riders 19 runs shy of the target.
Earlier, a spin-reliant KKR took full use of the sluggish Eden surface to restrict Rajasthan Royals to a modest 132 for six.
Sanju Samson (40, 1x4, 2x6) was the top-scorer for Royals while Shane Watson made run-a-ball 35 as both shared 44-run third-wicket partnership after the visitors were reduced to 27 for two.
Knight Riders, playing with three spinners in Sachithra Senanayake (2/26), Sunil Narine (1/20) and Iqbal Abdulla (1/22), choked the Royals who could not break free with only 30 runs coming in the last five overs.
Opting to bat, Dravid too had some interesting strategy up his sleeve when he sent James Faulkner at No 3 after Ajinkya Rahane (6) was foxed by Senanayake in an attempt to step out. The move, however, did not work as Faulkner (1) was dismissed in the next over with the Royals pace spearhead becoming Abdulla’s first victim.
Watson remained at the crease as he alongwith Samson re-built their innings with the rookie Kerala youngster showing a positive temperament.
Fresh from a match-winning 63 against Royals Challengers Bangalore, Samson looked in fine nick and made his intentions clear, pulling Abdulla over midwicket for a maximum.
Just when the Royals looked in recovery mode, Knight Riders expectedly brought in their trump card Narine in the 11th over and, as always, the mystery spinner did not disappoint taking the prized scalp of Watson.
Right from the first ball, Narine troubled Watson with his line and length as the Aussie had an anxious outing for four balls before perishing when he was trapped in the middle-stump line.
Knight Riders had Royals in trouble at 83/4 in the 13th over when Yagnik (10) became Senanayake’s second victim.
Samson remained unfazed at the other end as he pulled the Lankan offie over midwicket, in an action replay of his previous six. At the same time, Samson was also sensible in his approach as he did not take any risk against Narine who was as usual tidy.