Golden night of the Knights

Manish Pandey's marvellous 94 puts Saha's unbeaten century to shade in thrilling finale

Golden night of the Knights

In a match befitting the finale, Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab were involved in an engrossing contest before Kolkata held their nerve to emerge winners of the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League.

At the packed M Chinnaswamy stadium here on Sunday, the Knight Riders, powered by Manish Pandey’s scintillating 94 (50b, 7x4, 6x6), overhauled Kings XI’s 199/4 to win the title for the second time in three years after replying with 200 for seven in 19.3 overs.

While man-of-the-match Pandey’s knock was the cornerstone of Knight Riders’ successful chase, credit should also go to Piyush Chawla who kept his cool under immeasurable pressure.

Defending 15 runs in the last two overs, Mitchell Johnson gave away just four runs from the first five balls besides getting rid of the dangerous Suryakumar Yadav. With 11 required off last seven, Chawla pulled Johnson for six over backward square-leg reducing the equation to five from the final over.

Chawla carted Parvinder Awana for four to complete a three-wicket win and trigger wild celebrations amidst dazzling fireworks.     

On a day when their top-scorer in the league Robin Uthappa departed early, Pandey stole the thunder with, perhaps, the knock of his IPL career. The first Indian to score an IPL hundred, the Karnataka batsman not only held the innings together but kept them in hunt, picking regular boundaries during his nerveless stint.

A clutch of wickets, some to needless strokes, appeared to upset Knight Riders’ applecart but better sense prevailed in the end.

The Knight Riders’ win completely put to shade the maiden century in an IPL final by Wriddhiman Saha (115, 55b, 10x4, 8x6). That Kings XI’s strength is their batting was once again underlined despite two of their most dangerous batsmen –Sehwag and Glenn Maxwell -- managing just seven runs between them. Skipper George Bailey, who promoted himself to number 3, scored just one while another big hitter David Miller got to face just one ball.

 Knight Riders had lived up to their reputation of one of the best bowling sides until the 10th over of the innings, having restricted the Kings XI to 58 for two. The dismissal of Sehwag and Bailey had put Saha and Manan Vohra (67) under considerable pressure but the right-handed duo exploded in stunning style in the second half that had Knight Riders fieldsmen chasing their shadows.

The onslaught, coming as it did against the run of play, reduced Knight Riders’ bowlers to a bunch of nervous wrecks. Even the usually calm Sunil Narine (46/1) lost his plot as the off-spinner was carted around for 44 runs in his final three overs after conceding just two runs in his opening over for the wicket of Bailey. Coming ahead of crowd-favourite Maxwell, Saha justified his promotion with a knock of his career after initial caution.

The wicketkeeper-batsman collected the majority of his runs on the leg side, using the slog to great effect. He took a particular liking to paceman Umesh Yadav, offie Narine and leg-spinner Chawla, clobbering the trio for a whopping 93 runs off just 41 balls.

Saha had showed glimpses of his new-found aggressive streak with a 26-ball 54 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the league phase but on the day, he took his game to another level with, perhaps, the innings of this IPL, given the circumstances.

His partner Vohra, who shared a mammoth 129-run (73 balls) partnership for the third wicket, may have played a second fiddle to Saha but his innings was no less significant.

While Saha was all aggression, Vohra came up with crucial blows to ensure that the momentum wasn’t lost. Both the batsmen enjoyed a slice of luck though only Saha, dropped on 60 by Narine off his own bowling, made use of the life-line thrown at him. Unfortunately, he had to finish at the wrong end of the result.

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