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Yusuf, Narine thrust Kolkata into playoffs

Wisden India logo Wisden India 22-05-2016

It was rather fitting that Yusuf Pathan and Sunil Narine played decisive roles in the most crucial victory yet in Kolkata Knight Riders’ 2016 Indian Premier League campaign. The duo had delivered in patches throughout the season, and starred when it mattered the most, as Kolkata stormed into the playoffs with a 22-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday (May 22) at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Hyderabad had already qualified for the playoffs with 16 points, and a win in this match would have guaranteed a top-two finish. With Kolkata coming up trumps, Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, were knocked out of contention.

Yusuf hammered an unbeaten 34-ball 52, sharing an 87-run fourth-wicket stand with Manish Pandey, to lift Kolkata to 171 for 6. Narine then made most of the slow surface to return 3 for 26 as Hyderabad were restricted to 149 for 8.

Asked to bat under cloudy skies, Kolkata made a brisk start in tricky conditions. Robin Uthappa set the pace early with three boundaries, through the cover and point region, in the first over. Having raced to 25 off 17 balls with four hits to the fence, Uthappa went for another boundary, but ended up skying to Kane Williamson at backward point.

With Gautam Gambhir expected to play the anchor role, Colin Munro, replacing Morne Morkel in Kolkata’s XI, was expected to force the pace. But the series of soft dismissals in the Kolkata camp continued as both Munro and Gambhir fell in quick succession to leave the side reeling at 57 for 3 in 7.3 overs. The good work for Hyderabad was carried out by Deepak Hooda, the offspinner whose first burst of 2-0-16-2 prevented the top order from running away with it.

The early wickets, however, had little impact on Pandey. Coming in at No. 4, he counter-attacked with two sixes over midwicket off Karn Sharma in the ninth over to ensure Hyderabad didn’t squeeze Kolkata with spin after the early dismissals. Pandey and Yusuf’s impressive stand came in 49 deliveries to lead the recovery and put Kolkata back in the driver’s seat. While Pandey was quick off the blocks, Pathan was happy to play second fiddle, before tangibly changing gears with a couple of huge sixes over long on off Karn.

Pandey then shuffled across to send Barinder Sran towering over long-on in the next over, but soon mistimed a low full toss from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Although Yusuf carried on to bring up his third half-century of the season, lack of support from his partners, and excellent death bowling by the Hyderabad bowlers, meant Kolkata could add just 25 runs in the last four overs, though that eventually proved.

Returning for his second spell in the 15th over, Mustafizur Rahman accounted for Jason Holder, who failed to get under a full toss, before changing his pace brilliantly to concede just three runs in the penultimate over.

Shikhar Dhawan and David Warner, who had stacked up four fifty-plus stands and a century stand in the tournament so far, associated for just 28 runs as Hyderabad’s back was broken right at the outset. Having struck a six off Narine in the fourth over, Warner was beaten by the offspinner, who responded by bowling him the next ball.

Dhawan and Naman Ojha targeted Kolkata’s slower bowlers, even as they ran quickly between the wickets to combine for a 58-run second-wicket stand. Dhawan was at his sublime best, bringing up his half-century off 28 balls with a paddle sweep to the fine-leg boundary, before falling to Kuldeep Yadav (2 for 28). Ojha too followed in a similar fashion to become Narine’s second victim.

Yuvraj Singh did his bit to reduce the asking rate, hitting a boundary and a couple off sixes off Kuldeep. But Shakib Al Hasan ended his cameo, resulting in panic buttons being pressed in the Hyderabad camp. The innings, already on a freefall, came apart completely after Williamson’s dismissal as the lower order couldn’t cover the gaping hole left by the failure of the middle order.

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