Some amazing finishes

Mumbai Indians are over the moon after the last ball victory over Chennai Super Kings.-PTI

RCB and Mumbai Indians produced stunning wins even as Sourav Ganguly's PWI faltered against KKR in the much hyped match at the Eden Gardens. By Vijay Lokapally.

Bowlers continued to be at the receiving end as more contests were decided in the final over. Dwayne Smith and AB de Villiers produced stunning blows with the bat, to guide their teams to victory even as Piyush Chawla played his part in one match, swinging a six to settle the issue. There was a lot for the spectators to savour with the Kolkata cricket fans emerging a divided bunch — cheering for Sourav Ganguly against the home team. And also celebrating wildly when Kolkata Knight Riders snared the former India captain

KKR had a lot at stake. An away-match against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and a home clash with Pune Warriors India (PWI). The KKR captain Gautam Gambhir spoke of character and will to achieve a positive result. As is his wont, he led by example and produced knocks that mattered against CSK and PWI.

The KKR-PWI contest expectedly generated pre-match heat and hype. The hype was hardly surprising because Ganguly, local hero, was returning to his favourite venue to play against his previous team. The setting was electric. But how intense could the contest have been? One player against a team!

Would Ganguly pull it off single-handedly against an opposition that was quite fiercely determined to dominate? Gambhir is known to steel himself before a contest if the match demands him to be at his best. His many match-winning performances for Delhi and India are testimony to Gambhir's ability to deliver. He can raise his game when needed, under pressure.

Even as KKR bowling coach Wasim Akram reportedly likened it to an India-Pakistan clash, Gambhir played it down. “For me, it's another game of cricket. There is nothing so-called India versus Pakistan. We are playing against Pune Warriors and there is no such rivalry as Pakistan. India and Pakistan… is a completely different ball game. It's just the media that is creating the hype.”

The KKR captain emphasised on a collective effort. “To win a game, you need to play well on that given day. We are not playing against individuals. We are playing against a team. If individuals are struggling, that does not make them a lesser force. Let's talk about the team performances rather than the individual ones. KKR is not about Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir or Jacques Kallis. KKR is about what we have done as a team.”

As things turned out, the much-hyped event at the Eden Gardens paled in comparison to some close finishes at the other venues. Ganguly, coming to bat at number 7, did not exactly play to his potential. He was a mere shadow of the brilliant stroke-player that he was. And that was a sad sight indeed as he conceded ground on home turf.

Skipper Gambhir played his role perfectly. He had a hand in the five-wicket victory over CSK in an away-match. The win came with two balls remaining. Gambhir was in his elements against Pune too. It carried KKR to the second slot in the table.

Mumbai Indians progressed to the third spot, thanks to well-earned victories against Pune and CSK. It defended a low score against Pune in a last-ball finish. One run separated the teams. Mumbai skipper Harbhajan Singh swung the game by claiming Michael Clarke and Jesse Ryder. It boiled down to the last over when Pune needed 12 runs. Pune had Mithun Manhas in the middle but Mumbai had Munaf Patel, who managed to steer his team home.

Against CSK, Mumbai almost messed up the chase after being in a comfortable position. A target of 174 was competitive given the composition of CSK bowling. Murali Vijay, Dwayne Bravo and Suresh Raina had given the bowlers a decent target to defend. An early dent brought Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma together and they put on 126 runs for the first wicket. And then the game took a different course.

Tendulkar fell to an incredible catch at cover by Faf du Plessis. It was arguably the catch of the tournament and brought CSK back into the game as Mumbai lost its way. Wickets fell in a heap and CSK was on road to a victory. Sixteen runs off the last over and 14 off the last three balls. Most teams would have defended but CSK ran into an inspired Dwayne Smith. He smashed Ben Hilfenhaus for 6-4-4 to trigger wild celebrations at the Wankhede Stadium. Hilfenhaus was a sad figure, having conceded only 18 runs in his first three overs, but his last three deliveries cost CSK the match. To CSK's chagrin, Smith was playing only his first match of this IPL.

Delhi Daredevils had just one outing for the week and it played to its reputation and form. Virender Sehwag's 73 decided the contest as Daredevils comfortably overcame the target of 142 set by Rajasthan Royals.

RCB almost defended 158 against Kings XI Punjab when the battle went to the last over. Two runs outs added to the woes of Chargers before Chawla bludgeoned R. Vinay Kumar for a six with one ball remaining. But there was much to gain for RCB from the two changes it made in next match against the Chargers. Daniel Vettori stood down as captain to make way for Muttiah Muralitharan and T. Dilshan came in for Andrew McDonald. It made the difference.

Daniel Harris, a replacement for Daniel Christain, excelled with the bat and observed at the end of the match, “We could have got to a better score but Murali bowled a couple of good overs and slowed us down. I think 200 would have been really difficult to chase. This was a disappointing night for us. 180 was a par score and we did everything right until we saw havoc from AB (de Villiers).”

The Chargers appeared to have done well by setting RCB a target of 182 with handsome contributions from Shikhar Dhawan (73), Harris (47) and Cameron White (45). True, RCB had an explosive batting line up but Chargers had the potential to defend too. It almost did.

RCB planned the chase differently. Chris Gayle was subdued as Dilshan launched the attack. It was only in the sixth over that Gayle struck his first boundary. The West Indian regained his form soon and recorded his 100th IPL six when he clubbed Amit Mishra. He slammed Anand Rajan too but was bowled in attempting a repeat. It became 117 for four and Chargers could breathe freely. But they had not reckoned with AB yet.

AB went berserk, hitting an unbeaten 47 off 17 balls. His sensational knock swept Chargers away and brought RCB into the reckoning for a play-off spot. It was an amazing finish to a rollicking week of slam-bang cricket.