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Yusuf, bowlers ensure easy win for Kolkata

Wisden India logo Wisden India 14-05-2016
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After a quiet start to his Indian Premier League 2016 campaign, Yusuf Pathan, has returned to his destructive best off late, and on Sunday (May 15) night, he was once again the match-winning force in Kolkata’s eight-wicket victory via the Duckworth-Lewis method over Rising Pune Supergiants in a rain-affected contest at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Yusuf smashed an unbeaten 37 off 18 balls when Kolkata were set a revised target of 66 to win off nine overs, after persistent rain had halted play for two and a half hours with Pune struggling on 103 for 6 in 17.4 overs. Yusuf’s knock was studded with four fours and six sixes, and in the end, Kolkata won the match with four overs to spare.

The chase was not as smooth as Yusuf made it look, as Kolkata lost Robin Uthappa (4) and Gautam Gambhir (0) in an electric first over from R Ashwin, where he made the ball grip and spin at will. But after surprising Yusuf with a brute of a carrom ball when he took strike for the first time, it was the big man from Baroda who dictated terms till the end, with Manish Pandey (15 not out) playing the role of a spectator at the other end.

There was a lot of speculation about the pitch leading up to this match. Some said that pitch No. 4, which was last used during Kolkata’s thrilling seven-run win over Kings XI Punjab on May 4, will once again support spinners, while Stephen Fleming, the Pune coach, told reporters at the pre-match press conference that he wasn’t totally sure that would be the case.

As it turned out, Pune, choosing to bat, got off to a shaky start, with the pace duo of Andre Russell and Morne Morkel extracting great bounce off the track. Ajinkya Rahane, Pune’s most successful batsman in the campaign so far, was the first to go, trying to swing at a brute of a delivery from Russell that took his offstump down.

Strangely, by the fourth over, that sting in the pitch completely disappeared, and even the pacers, noticing the change, switched to bowling cutters and slower deliveries. Seeing the opportunity, Gambhir brought Shakib Al Hasan into the attack, and immediately, Usman Khawaja, who didn’t look too comfortable during his 17-ball stay at the crease, perished trying to smack the left-arm spinner against the spin. Suryakumar Yadav, who had just pulled off an electric save at the square leg boundary, completed an easy catch at the same spot, and Pune found themselves 26 for 2 in 4.3 overs.

A 41-run association for the third wicket between George Bailey and Saurabh Tiwary took them to 67 for 2 in 9.3 overs, but both departed in quick succession to give Kolkata the upper hand once again.

Bailey, stepping out to play a big shot, was outdone by a sharply turning delivery from Piyush Chawla, and easily stumped by Robin Uthappa after scoring a 27-ball 33 – the highest score by a Pune batsman on the night.

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MS Dhoni and Irfan Pathan, playing only in his second match of the tournament, knocked the ball around for a bit, before the latter was run out for 7, and Thisara Perera, the No. 7 batsman, hit one four before becoming Chawla’s second victim in the 17th over.

Dhoni and Ashwin were left stranded in the middle during the 18h over when a light drizzle appeared out of nowhere. In a matter of minutes, that turned into a steady shower, forcing the umpires to take the players off the field.

After three inspections by match officials, play finally resumed at 11:45 pm IST. Credit must be given to the number of groundsmen who worked tirelessly to get the ground ready for play, and the improved drainage system at Eden Gardens further helped in getting a result out of the encounter.

The revised target meant Kolkata needed to score at 7.33 per over, which, thanks to Yusuf’s onslaught, was achieved rather easily in the end.

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