A close encounter

Shah Rukh Khan honours his team’s captain with the Man of the Match award.-PTI

In a truncated 16-over game, Kolkata Knight Riders held its nerve to post a five-run victory. S. Sabanayakan reports.

In a poignant moment, Shah Rukh Khan, after awarding the Kolkata Knight Riders’ captain Sourav Ganguly with a golden helmet for emerging the Man of the Match against Royal Challengers, Bangalore in the 29th match of the DLF IPL Twenty20 league at the Eden Gardens, walked up to the rival captain Rahul Dravid and gave him a warm hug.

This was a great gesture. It conveyed two things: one, how much he was relieved by his team’s victory and two, even at the time of utmost happiness, he had the grace to share Dravid’s sorrow.

The five-run victory which broke Knight Riders’ string of four losses ought to have lifted not only the team’s morale but also its owner’s. With the King of good times, Vijay Mallya, owner of Royal Challengers, watching the proceedings, the home side cruised to victory in a rain-truncated 16-over-a-side game.

The 9-45 p.m. start was as ominous as the clouds above the Eden Gardens, but the rain did relent to allow the proceedings to take the centre stage. Ganguly won the toss and decided to bat only to see the team plunge to 46 for three. The toporder was back in the dug out in eight overs with pacers Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan causing the damage.

David Hussey and Tatenda Taibu got into the rescue act, but wickets kept falling before the seventh wicket pair of Laxmi Ratan Shukla and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik used the long handle to good effect to forge a 34-run partnership to take the score past 100. Finally, the innings ended at 129 for seven in 16 overs.

It was indeed a standout performance by Steyn, who grabbed three wickets for 27 runs in four overs. But the best bowling performance in terms of runs conceded came from R. Vinay Kumar whose three overs cost the side only 15 runs.

A victory target of 130 needed careful planning to achieve. Royal Challengers took up the task in right earnest with J. Arunkumar showing the way with three consecutive boundaries off Umar Gul’s first over. But a direct hit by Brad Hodge put paid to the opener’s aspirations. In walked Dravid to join Mark Boucher and in the next three overs, the duo failed to make much headway picking up just nine runs. And shrewd as he is Ganguly came on to bowl and went through two of his three overs!

When Ganguly finished his quota he not only had had Dravid for dinner but also pegged back the run-rate so much that Royal Challengers was 53 for three at the end of 10 overs.

The Bangalore outfit needed 77 runs from 36 balls and it was a desperate situation for Dravid and his men. In walked Cameron White. He and Boucher produced the best partnership for the visiting side, taking 38 runs from the next three overs before Ishant Sharma put on the brakes, conceding only five runs in the 14th over. In the penultimate over, the pair’s 45-run association was broken.

With 19 runs needed from the last over bowled by Sharma, Boucher plundered eight runs from four balls and the team needed 11 from the last two. A single off the fifth ball triggered celebrations in the terraces, and the last ball four was of no avail.

The Knight Riders’ victory was mainly due to the team’s superb fielding. But for Boucher (50, 40b, 5x4, 1x6) and Cameron White (30, 16b, 3x4, 1x6), the Royal Challengers would not have come anywhere near the target.

The loss was the Challengers’ sixth in eight matches and second to the Knight Riders. The victory gave the Knight Riders a new meaning to its campaign.

THE SCORES

Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers, Bangalore, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, May 8.

Result: Kolkata Knight Riders won by eight runs.

Kolkata Knight Riders 129 for seven in 16 overs (S. Ganguly 20, D. Hussey 26, Steyn 3-27) beat Royal Challengers, Bangalore 124 for four in 16 overs (J. Arunkumar 22, M. Boucher 50 n.o., C. White 30).