Gujarat Lions roared back in style to tame the formidable Kolkata Knight Riders in its den, the Eden Gardens, and check the three-match losing streak by recording a comprehensive five-wicket win on Sunday.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik (51), apart from taking two catches, scored an impressive half-century, his third of the season, to lead Lions' successful run chase, which was achieved with two overs to spare. Lions' seventh win helped the Rajkot-based outfit regain top spot with 14 points.
Earlier, Lions restricted Knight Riders to a below-par 158 for four despite a defiant unbeaten partnership (134 runs off 85 balls) between Yusuf Pathan (63) and Shakib Al Hasan (66).
Propelled by Praveen Kumar's skilful seam bowling, Lions ensured Knight Riders' worst ever start in the tournament this season as the host lost four wickets for 24 in six overs.
The wily seamer executed his plans well to deliver a double blow in the third over. Praveen provided the breakthrough by attacking Gautam Gambhir's leg stump. The ball brushed the Knight Riders captain's thigh pad before deflecting on to the stumps. Manish Pandey fell to a gem of a delivery.
As Praveen gave away just seven runs in his first spell of three overs, Lions banked on the momentum to mount the pressure.
Dhawal Kulkarni, bowling with discipline, removed the set Robin Uthappa, and Dwayne Smith got rid of Suryakumar Yadav, who gloved a sharply rising delivery that was snaffled by Suresh Raina spectacularly. Raina plucked it in his right hand while diving to his left, to put Lions firmly on top.
Nevertheless, Yusuf and Shakib targeted the Lions spinners to record the highest fifth wicket stand in the IPL and resurrect the host's innings.
Slam-bang expert Yusuf picked the gaps and contemptuously despatched the Lions spinners to the boundary in frequent intervals. Yusuf, who hit seven fours and a straight six off Shivil Kaushik, scored his second half-century.
Shakib, who brought up his best performance with the bat this season, played sensibly before opening up. The southpaw, dropped on three, plundered four cleanly hit fours and as many sixes, including two in a row, off Bravo.
Blazing opening stand
Thanks to the quickfire 42-run opening stand between Brendon McCullum and Smith, the Lions innings got on to the right track. With McCullum punishing Morne Morkel by hammering him for two glorious sixes and a four in the seventh, Lions achieved the initial momentum it had aimed for.
Karthik batted brilliantly to add 49 runs with Suresh Raina and take Lions closer to victory. Karthik played the linkman's role to perfection in his 29-ball innings, which featured three successive fours off Brad Hogg, and made Lions' journey smoother.
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