Ganguly-Gul combo does it for Kolkata

Knight Riders’ hero, Umar Gul, receives the Man of the Match trophy.-PTI

Kolkata Knight Riders survived a middle-order collapse to post a three-wicket win and make an honourable exit from the tournament, writes S. Sabanayakan.

Pakistani pace bowler Umar Gul played like a specialist batsman to turn around the fortunes of Kolkata Knight Riders against Kings XI, Punjab in their DLF Indian Premier League match on May 25. When he was adjudged the Man of the Match for his short cameo and the four wickets that he grabbed in Punjab’s innings, not a single soul at the Eden Gardens or the millions watching the proceedings on television would have been unhappy with the decision.

The fact that Knight Riders was out of the reckoning for a spot in the semi-finals and had nothing to play for but pride was also a major reason why the team played freely at the death. Positioned hopelessly at 106 for six in 15.3 overs, skipper Sourav Ganguly, unbeaten on 45, had every reason to play cautiously as the team clearly faced defeat.

In walked Gul to face James Hopes and this lanky Pakistani changed the complexion of the contest during his 11-ball stay at the crease. He and Ganguly added 49 runs off 18 balls to swing the match in favour of Knight Riders.

Gul wielded the long handle effectively to hoist three sixes besides scoring a boundary. When Ganguly joined the party it was a treat for the sparse gathering as Hopes (14 runs), Piyush Chawla (18) and S. Sreesanth (16) were taken to the cleaners. Despite Gul departing in the penultimate over bowled by Vikram Raj Vir Singh, a vibrant Ganguly collared Irfan Pathan in the final over, scoring two sixes, a couple and a single to steer Kolkata to victory with two balls to spare.

The three-wicket victory gave Kolkata Knight Riders an honourable exit from the tournament in which it was one of the early favourites.

A target of 175 with an asking rate of 8.75 against an upbeat team was a difficult proposition. The 45-run stand for the first wicket raised some hopes, but the departure of Butt (24, 19 balls, 5x4) and the subsequent collapse of the middle-order did not help Knight Riders’ cause. However, the Gul-Ganguly association came at the right time for Kolkata.

Kings XI had no hesitation in batting on winning the toss. The opening pair of Shaun Marsh and Hopes promised much but delivered little before Kumar Sangakkara joined Marsh.

The two had a rollicking stand for the second wicket, putting on 83 runs off 57 balls before debutant Ajantha Mendis sent back Marsh for 40 (31 balls, 3x4, 2x6). Kings XI needed this platform to boost its total. When Yuvraj Singh (27) departed he ensured his team’s total had crossed 150.

Gul, who had two scalps in his first three overs, took two more in his last over, those of Irfan Pathan and Chawla, to be on a hat-trick. He, however, was denied the feat by the young India under-19 star Tanmay Srivastava.

THE SCORES

Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI, Punjab, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, May 25, 2008.

Result: Knight Riders won by three wickets.

Kings XI, Punjab 174 for six in 20 overs (Shaun Marsh 40, K. Sangakkara 64, Yuvraj Singh 27, Umar Gul four for 23) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 175 for seven in 19.4 overs (Salman Butt 24, Sourav Ganguly 86 not out, Umar Gul 24, S. Sreesanth two for 33, V. R. V. Singh 2 for 28, Piyush Chawla two for 36).