Brilliant Knight Riders are champions of IPL

Brilliant Knight Riders are champions of IPL

Manish Pandey leads the way with sparkling 94

Brilliant Knight Riders are champions of IPL

If Robin Uthappa can’t, Manish Pandey will!

On a day when Uthappa, the Orange Cap holder for most runs in this edition suffered a rare failure, his State-mate Pandey rose to the occasion with a sparkling 94 (50b, 7x4, 6x6) that made light of Kings XI Punjab’s formidable 199 for four in the IPL final.

Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, Knight Riders held their nerve in a tense chase to reply with 200 for seven in 19.3 overs to wear the crown for the second time after their triumph in 2012.

Gautam Gambhir thus became only the second captain after M S Dhoni to lift the coveted trophy for the second time at the full-to-the brim M Chinnaswamy stadium. The dazzling fireworks at the end of the finale, however, were nothing compared to the incandescent stroke-play displayed by players from either sides. 

Wriddhiman Saha (115, 55b, 10x4, 8x6) set the tone for the match with the maiden century in an IPL final but his stunning knock was overshadowed by Pandey’s match-winning innings. Not since becoming the first Indian to score an IPL hundred in 2009 in South Africa against the now-defunct Deccan Chargers had Pandey played an innings of such significance. 

The Karnataka batsman received valuable support from Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan and when he departed on the cusp of his second IPL ton, he had taken the game away from Kings XI’s grasp. Though the lower-order batsmen threatened to make hash of the chase, Piyush Chawla ensured KKR reached home, leaving Kings XI heartbroken, after all their efforts to make their maiden final. 

On Friday night in Mumbai, Suresh Raina had nearly put Virender Sehwag’s 58-ball 122 into oblivion with his blitzkrieg of 25-ball-87 but his team-mate Saha wasn’t fortunate enough as he watched helplessly the innings of his career go in vain. Pandey’s performance, in a way, reflected Knight Riders’ journey to the final during which they unearthed one match-winner after another. 

For a team that lost five of its first seven matches, it has been a remarkable turnaround. No team in the history of IPL has reeled off nine wins on the trot in the run up to the title.

While Uthappa and Sunil Narine, who too took a rare pounding on the day, kept their campaign on track once the IPL returned to India, equal credit should go to the likes of Yusuf, Gambhir, Shakib Al Hasan, Chawla and Umesh Yadav among others as Kolkata took home the winners’ cheque for Rs 15 crore.