Akhtar spits venom

John Buchanan thought that Shoaib Akhtar was not match fit. But the Pakistani speedster proved the coach wrong.-S. PATRONOBISH

With Kolkata restricted to 133, Delhi thought it would be a cakewalk. But Shoaib Akhtar rode rough-shod over them. S. Sabanayakan reports.

Coach John Buchanan found him to be unfit for match conditions. But captain Sourav Ganguly thought otherwise. Shoaib Akhtar, putting behind four months of mental trauma owing to various reasons including disciplinary action by his Board, came, saw and conquered Delhi Daredevils in a matter of three overs. He lapped up the cream of the Delhi team’s batting to pave the way for Kolkata Knight Riders’ 23-run victory — its fifth in nine matches — in the DLF-Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens.

The maverick fast bowler produced thunderbolts to flummox the opposing batsmen with his fastest ball being a little over 151 kmph. He was on a hat-trick as well, but was denied the feat. Otherwise, getting to a target of 134 in 20 overs should not have posed a problem to the Daredevils.

Skipper Virender Sehwag, the in-form Gautam Gambhir, A.B. de Villiers and Manoj Tewari, who came in for Dinesh Karthik for this game, fell to Man of the Match Akhtar, leaving Tillakaratne Dilshan (25, 19b, 5x4) and Amit Mishra, known more for his leg-spin bowling than slam-bang batting, to do the rescue act. The two waged a grim battle to add 24 invaluable runs for the sixth wicket. But a brilliant run out effort by Laxmi Ratan Shukla put paid to the duo’s aspirations. When Mishra (31, 32b, 3x4) and Farveez Maharoof threatened to take over with a useful 34-run stand for the seventh wicket, the latter was sent back by bowler Ashoke Dinda, who raced to the forward short-leg position, picked up the ball and threw down the wicket at the non-striker’s end with one fluent movement!

This dismissal ended the Delhi Daredevils’ resistance as Shukla, coming on to bowl the 18th over dismissed Amit Mishra (2nd ball), Pradeep Sangwan (3rd ball) and Vijaykumar Yomahesh (5th ball) to restrict the Delhi outfit to 110 in 17.5 overs. Earlier, the Kolkata Knight Riders put up a modest total against a disciplined Delhi Daredevils attack. Electing to bat, Knight Riders profited by two useful stands — 35 runs for the first wicket between openers Salman Butt and Aakash Chopra in six overs and 40 runs for the third wicket between Butt (48, 44b, 7x4) and David Hussey (31, 31b, 2x6) — to reach 133 for six in 20 overs.

Buoyed by its victory against Deccan Chargers that broke the team’s four-match losing streak, Knight Riders brought in Shoaib Akhtar in place of Umar Gul and left-arm spinner Syed Iqbal Abdullah for Murali Kartik. Daredevils, which lost to Rajasthan Royals in the previous game, brought in local boy Manoj Tewari in place of Dinesh Karthik. Yet, the visitors slumped to their fourth defeat in a row in nine matches. With the IPL reaching its business end, the Knight Riders needed to shed unwanted flab. It decided to release five fringe players — Ranadeb Bose, Sourasish Lahiri, Rohan Banerjee, Yashpal Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara. — to bring down the size of the contingent to a core group of 14. Aussie Brad Hodge, called up as a back-up for teammate Michael Clarke on the tour to the West Indies, has also returned to the Knight Riders’ side.

THE SCORES

Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata Knight Riders, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, May 13.

Result: Kolkata Knight Riders won by 23 runs.

Kolkata Knight Riders 133 for six in 20 overs (S. Butt 48, D. Hussey 31, V. Yomahesh 2-34, F. Maharoof 2-25) beat Delhi Daredevils 110 in 17.5 overs (T. Dilshan 25, A. Mishra 31, S. Akhtar 4-11, L. R. Shukla 3-6).