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Gambhir, Uthappa fifties help Kolkata stretch lead at the top

Wisden India logo Wisden India 28-04-2017

This was a contest between the table-toppers and the table-proppers of the Indian Premier League 2017, and the gap widened by the end of it with Kolkata Knight Riders completing a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Delhi Daredevils at Eden Gardens on a balmy Friday (April 28) evening. Delhi’s innings was one of two contrasting halves.

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They began briskly, looking on track for a total of over 180, but lost their way because of some excellent bowling. That they could get to 160 for 6 in 20 overs was mainly due to Sanju Samson’s 60 off 38 balls and Shreyas Iyer’s 47 from 34 balls. Driven by Robin Uthappa’s brisk half-century and Gautam Gambhir’s unbeaten 71 off 52 balls, Kolkata chased the target down in 16.2 overs. The two sent the Delhi bowlers on a leather hunt on their way to a 108-run second-wicket stand in 11 overs that set up yet another successful chase at their fortress – Kolkata haven’t lost chasing at Eden Gardens since 2012; this was their 13th successful chase in this period. 

Kagiso Rabada struck in the second over of Kolkata’s reply, hitting timber to send back Sunil Narine, but the wicket didn’t do much for Delhi. It didn’t help Delhi’s chances that Zaheer Khan, their captain, was struggling with his right hamstring and went out of the attack after bowling just one ball in his second over, which Corey Anderson completed. Although Zaheer returned to the field soon after, he didn’t bowl. Some fielding lapses added to Delhi’s woes.

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While a top-edge from Uthappa off Rabada landed between Amit Mishra and Samson close to the square-leg umpire, one from Uthappa evaded the diving fielder at mid-on in the same over.

The floodgates opened after that as Gambhir and Uthappa dealt in fours and sixes to take Kolkata to 101 for 1 in just ten overs. While Mishra and Pat Cummins gave away 14 and 13 runs respectively in an over, 19 runs came off Chris Morris’s second over. Uthappa raised his half-century off just 24 deliveries before being run out off a direct hit from Karun Nair.

With Kolkata cruising at 125 for 2 in 13 overs, the writing was pretty much on the wall. Gambhir brought up his half-century with a four off Anderson, and continued to attack Mishra, smashing three fours in an over. He also went past the 6000-run mark in Twenty20s along the way. Manish Pandey was beaten by Rabada’s pace, but Gambhir and Sheldon Jackson added an unbroken 22-run fourth-wicket stand to take Kolkata home with 22 balls to spare. The odds were heavily stacked against Delhi when play started.

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They had won just two out of six games prior to this and were yet to find the right combination. Kolkata made two changes, bringing back Nathan Coulter-Nile in place of Darren Bravo, and to maintain the balance, gave Jackson his IPL debut in place of Piyush Chawla. Despite looking a bit edgy, Nair started with a boundary off Coulter-Nile in the opening over, but it was Samson who took the initiative, hitting a four and six off Umesh Yadav. The two capitalised in the Power Play with some classy strokes that found the gaps with ease, collecting five boundaries in the next two overs.

But Narine broke through in his first over when he trapped Nair lbw for 15.

The boundaries completely dried up after the Power Play as Samson and Iyer began consolidating. Despite that, the platform was set with Delhi at 78 for 1 in ten overs. But Kolkata’s high-quality bowling didn’t let Delhi build on the good start as the next ten overs brought them just 82 for 5. Samson finally broke the shackles by depositing a Kuldeep Yadav delivery over the square-leg fence and bringing up his half-century off 32 balls.

Gambhir, Uthappa make it easy for KKR

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Iyer, too, joined in he fun with a flurry of boundaries, even as Samson stuck a huge six off Umesh. But the bowler had the last laugh when he trapped the opener lbw off the next ball. It was downhill for Delhi from there. Despite his expensive first spell, Coulter-Nile made a strong comeback to dismiss Rishabh Pant and Iyer (47) in the same over.

Kuldeep dropped Anderson twice off his own bowling, but Kolkata didn’t have to pay too dearly for that as he was run out while stealing a non-existent single. Coulter-Nile ended with 3 for 34 when he dismissed Morris off the penultimate ball of the innings, and Delhi finished with a lot lesser than they would have liked.

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