KKR land knockout blow on RCB

Uthappa, Narine sparkle as Gambhir's men enter Play-offs with a 30-run win

KKR land knockout blow on RCB

The faint hopes that Royal Challengers Bangalore were carrying evaporated in the sweltering heat at the Eden Gardens.

Needing to win their last two matches to stay in hunt for a berth in the Play-offs, Royal Challengers were completely outplayed by Kolkata Knight Riders who joined Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings in the last-four stage after a thumping 30-run win here on Thursday. Having posted a staggering 195 for four after being asked to bat first, Knight Riders restricted an out-of-sorts visitors to 165 for five for their sixth successive win this season. While almost the entire home bowling unit came good on the day, Sunil Narine stood out once again with a mesmerising spell of 4-0-20-4.

The win not only took Knight Riders, on 16 points from 13 games, to the Play-offs but also provided them with strong chance of finishing among the top two. For Royal Challengers, this was the third successive season that they have failed to qualify and the only consolation for them would be finishing on top of the bottom half.      Given the firepower in their line-up, the target wasn’t beyond Royal Challengers’ reach but with Chris Gayle’s wretched run continuing, they didn’t get the required start needed to surmount hosts’ huge total. Virat Kohli, Yogesh Takawale, coming in for Parthiv Patel, and Yuvraj Singh could only create some artificial excitement in what was a largely one-sided affair.  

Robin Uthappa (83, 51b, 10x4, 1x6) was once again in the forefront of Knight Riders’ dominating performance. The opener combined well with Shakib Al Hasan (60, 38b, 5x4, 3x6) to raise massive 121 runs for the fourth wicket off just 71 balls that took the wind out of Royal Challengers’ sails. In the process of his highest score of the season, Uthappa, on 572 runs from 13 matches, snatched the Orange cap from Glenn Maxwell as the tournament’s top run-getter.

During the association between Uthappa and Shakib, Bangalore’s game plan, if any they had, went out of the window. Bowling changes hardly paid off while fielding left a lot to be desired. Barring Mitchell Starc, none of the RCB bowlers was able to make any impact. The usually economical Yuzvendra Chahal turned out to be the most disappointing one on the day, conceding a whopping 50 runs in his four overs. While Uthappa had bruised the leg-spinner in his earlier spell with two fours and a straight six, Shakib savaged him in his final over.

The southpaw clobbered the Haryana bowler for three sixes and a four to collect a total of 24 runs in the 15th over of the innings. Though Knight Riders were maintaining a healthy run-rate through their innings, Shakib’s onslaught gave them that extra push at the right time. Where at one stage they appeared good for a total of around 175, Knight Riders significantly raised the bar.  

Royal Challengers’ hopes of restricting Knight Riders to a achievable target appeared to materialise when the hosts lost three of their frontline batsmen for 56 runs. Gautam Gambhir was dismissed in the opening over while Manish Pandey couldn’t prolong his stay beyond 12 balls. Yusuf Pathan (22, 13b, 1x4, 2x6) looked ominous but his inability to land the bat after diving caught him short of crease.

 Uthappa, however, lived up to the expectations placed on him with another sparkling innings that was decorated with delectable strokes. The right-hander didn’t hit a single shot in anger but the urgency was never sacrificed. Maintaining a strike rate of around 150-plus for most part of his stint, the Karnataka batsman eventually fulfilled his wish to bat till the end, anchoring and accelerating at the same time.  

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