Dicey pitch, lacklustre game

David Hussey receives a special award from Knight Riders’ owner Shah Rukh Khan.-PTI

An underprepared wicket took the fun out of the proceedings as the batsmen were not able to indulge in big-hitting, which is the very essence of T20 cricket. Over to S. Sabanayakan.

True to the team anthem, Korbo, lorbo, jeetbo re, Kolkata Knight Riders showed the will to do, the spirit to fight and the effort to win the battle against Hyderabad Deccan Chargers in the fourth match of the DFL Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens on a sweltering Sunday amidst a cacophony of music, dance and daredevilry never before witnessed at the hallowed arena.

Taking on one of the best sides of the ongoing Twenty20 tournament, Knight Riders rode the luck and skill of some of its players on a pitch that got worse by the passing minute. As the underprepared wicket threatened to halt the victory march of the home team, came another shocker — a power cut — which held up play for 27 minutes. The break did help the Knight Riders’ unbeaten pair of David Hussey, the eventual Man of the Match, and Bengal Ranji Trophy skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla, to gather their thoughts; it also made the Deccan Chargers lose the momentum it had built assiduously on the field in trying to protect its modest total of 110 scored in 18.4 overs.

Twenty20 cricket is to provide entertainment to the fullest. On this count the Kolkata match fell flat, leaving the 70,000-odd spectators deeply disappointed. The only solace was that the home side won.

Deccan Chargers’ skipper V. V. S. Laxman won a very good toss, but the first couple of overs indicated the behaviour of the strip. Runs were coming in a trickle and freestroking batsmen like Adam Gilchrist (23, 22b, 2x6, 1x4) and later Andrew Symonds (32, 39b, 2x6, 2x4) were shackled by the spin of Murali Kartik (3/17) and Mohammad Hafeez (1/8).

Because of the conditions, there were just half a dozen hits over the ropes and as many across them in the Deccan Chargers’ innings. The spongy bounce and vicious turn, some times almost square, made the batsmen turn and twist to avoid getting hit badly. A 33-run association between Symonds and Sanjay Bangar gave a semblance of respectability to the total.

A victory target of 111 in 120 balls on this dicey wicket was a tough job indeed, and Knight Riders’ skipper Sourav Ganguly promoted wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who had a good outing behind the stumps, to open and gather as many runs as possible. The hero of the inaugural match, Brendon McCullum, was the first to go for five (team 6/1). Ricky Ponting went for no score (16/2) and Saha for 10 (21/3). The usually vociferous Eden Gardens crowd was stunned into silence. Shah Rukh Khan and his entourage occupying the first floor of the Club House kept egging the crowd to support the home side.

In walked David Hussey to join his captain Ganguly and the pair saw through the most crucial phase of the match, adding 47 valuable runs for the fourth wicket in 8.4 overs. The usually ‘friendly’ pace of Sanjay Bangar and Scott Styris proved unplayable and the runs dried up. The two experienced campaigners pushed and plodded to survive.

The pressure did ease in the 11th over, bowled by Bangar, as it produced 11 runs and the 12th over bowled by Symonds fetched the home side 15 runs! Left-armer Pragyan Ojha came on to bowl the 13th, and dismissed Ganguly, known to treat spinners with disdain, for 14 (30b, 1x4). Mohammad Hafeez supported a determined Hussey and the two added 20 invaluable runs for the fifth wicket.

At 89 for five and with 22 runs needed from 20 balls, the situation was in favour of the fielding side when the unexpected break came through the power cut!

Styris came on to bowl the 18th over. Hussey hoisted him for a massive six and finished the over with a finely glanced four to plunder 13 runs off it.

The match, poised on a razor’s edge, turned decisively towards Knight Riders as celebrations started in the terraces before Hussey finished the match with another superb six off Ojha (2/18).

THE SCORES

Kolkata Knight Riders v Deccan Chargers, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, April 20, 2008. Result: