KKR brighten play-off chances

In-form Uthappa powers Kolkata home; Chennai qualify despite loss

KKR brighten play-off chances

It was a bitter-sweet Tuesday night for the Chennai Super Kings. The defeat of Royal Challengers Bangalore at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier in the day had ensured their passage into play-offs but their second successive loss, this time against Kolkata Knight Riders, hit their hopes of finishing in the top two.

The in-form Robin Uthappa (67, 39 balls, 10x4, 1x6), dropped by R Ashwin at slip when on six, made Super Kings pay for the miss with another delightful knock as Knight Riders coasted to an eight-wicket win with two overs to spare after their bowlers had restricted the visitors to 154 for four. 

This was this season’s first IPL match at the Eden Gardens and the near capacity crowd had their money’s worth.

Their fifth consecutive win kept Knight Riders at fourth spot on the table with 14 points (same as Rajasthan Royals) from 12 matches, bolstering their play-offs chances while Super Kings remained at second with 16 points after 12 matches. Knight Riders need just another win from their remaining two matches against Royal Challengers (on Thursday) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (May 24) to book their place in the last four.      

Easily the best Indian batsman this IPL season, Uthappa took the game away from Super Kings with a flurry of boundaries early in the chase. The right-handed opener completely dominated the 64-run stand for the opening wicket with Gambhir and 34-run association with Manish Pandey for the second wicket, flicking, driving and occasionally pulling in an elegant show of batsmanship

. This was his third fifty of the season and seventh successive 40 or 40-plus score. The Karnataka batsman was disappointed with his dismissal but Shakib Al Hasan ensured his effort didn’t go waste with a brisk innings (46 n.o., 21b, 6x4, 2x6).

Knight Riders’ decision to bowl first on a greenish pitch paid off with the home bowlers keeping the Super Kings batsmen on a tight leash. 

Raina show

Suresh Raina, whose batting assumes a different dimension when it comes to IPL, provided the much-needed solidity with another significant contribution while Brendon McCullum (28), Faf du Plessis (23) and MS Dhoni (21 n.o.) ensured Super Kings’ innings reached a middling total, though never an imposing one.

McCullum, who was playing his last league game before he flies back home for the birth of his third child, took on IPL debutant Pat Cummins to turbo-charge Super Kings’ innings after the Aussie paceman had rattled Dwayne Smith’s off-stump with peach of a delivery in the previous over. 

Two sixes and a four appeared to dash Knight Riders’ homecoming but the introduction of spin put the shackles. Though Piyush Chawla went for a few when Raina (65, 52b, 3x4, 5x6) cut loose against the leg-spinner, Shakib and Sunil Narine controlled things, keeping the Super Kings’ batsmen in control.    

Gambhir rotated his bowling resources effectively and barring pockets of counter attack, Super Kings batsmen couldn’t dominate the bowling. 

For the second match in succession Raina had the misfortune of seeing his half-century go in vain but on the positive side, his team had secured a play-offs berth.

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