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Robin Uthappa propels Knight Riders to No. 1

Kolkata Knight Riders 184 for 3 (Uthappa 87, Gambhir 62) beat Rising Pune Supergiant 182 for 5 (Smith 51, Kuldeep 2-31) by seven wickets

Uthappa

A turbo-charged innings from Robin Uthappa and a relatively more sedate one from Gautam Gambhir helped Kolkata Knight Riders overhaul 182 with 11 balls to spare and reclaim the top spot in the league.

Their 158-run partnership – the second highest for KKR in the IPL – ruthlessly exposed the limitations of a Rising Pune attack that was without Ben Stokes, who was nursing a niggle.

In Stokes’ absence, there was a case for Rising Pune to pick either New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson or Australian legspinner Adam Zampa. Instead, they opted for South African batsman Faf du Plessis, who did not even get to bat.

Five of Rising Pune’s six bowlers went for over eight runs an over – and three went for over 10. Pune’s fielding was as slipshod as their bowling. Uthappa, who was dropped on 12, moved to his highest IPL score of 87 off 47 balls at a strike-rate of 185.10. Gambhir, who was dropped on 32, went on to make 62. By the time they were dismissed in successive overs, the game was all but over. It was IPL debutant Darren Bravo who applied the finishing touches with a cover-driven four.

Tripathi thrives in the Powerplay

The first over of the match, which had four plays-and-misses and an outside edge that burst through Uthappa’s gloves, turned out to be a false dawn for KKR. Rahul Tripathi was scoreless when Uthappa dropped that difficult chance. Yusuf Pathan then shelled a simpler catch to reprieve Tripathi in the seventh over. By then the opener had given Rising Pune their second successive fifty-run opening stand.

He darted around the crease and manufactured swinging room to hit a variety of drives, including an inside-out four over covers off Sunil Narine. In all, Tripathi took two of KKR’s key bowlers – Narine and Umesh Yadav – for 28 runs off 13 balls. His early assault allowed Ajinkya Rahane to play himself in at the other end.

Dhoni doesn’t start slowly

Before this match, Dhoni had scored just 27 runs off 54 balls from Narine in T20s – 3 off 13 balls in his previous game against KKR. But when Dhoni arrived on Wednesday night, Narine had only one over left. Gambhir held him back, and Dhoni pounced on Piyush Chawla, hitting him for back-to-back boundaries. Dhoni then pulled Kuldeep Yadav for a six and took Pune to 140 for 2 in 16 overs. Gambhir turned to Narine for the next over, but Dhoni saw him off.

The rousing finish

Kuldeep brought KKR back by removing both Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary, who was sent ahead of du Plessis, with googlies. KKR, however, were without their previous match-winner Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was rested for this clash. Chris Woakes and Umesh served up a volley of length balls, and Smith and Dan Christian clattered 30 off the last two overs to lift Pune to 182 for 5.

The partnership that won it

KKR lost Narine, who opened again, in the third over of the chase when Dhoni collected a throw from Shardul Thakur and dexterously flicked it onto the stumps. Imran Tahir induced a swirling top edge from Uthappa in his first over, but Jaydev Unadkat dropped it, falling backwards at deep midwicket. Uthappa soon got stuck into rookie offspinner Washington Sundar, gloriously lofting him for back-to-back sixes down the ground. Tahir wasn’t spared either – he was driven down the ground for a six. At the other end, Gambhir simply nurdled the ball into the gaps and let Uthappa do his thing.

Uthappa soon unfurled dabs and sweeps, and secured runs in the other V – behind square. With every boundary, KKR highlighted the lack of depth in the Pune attack. The weakness in fielding was also exposed when Sundar put down Gambhir at short fine leg. Having watched his frontline bowlers regularly disappear to the boundary, Smith turned to Tripathi’s occasional medium-pace. He fared just as poorly, conceding 12 off his only over. In the first six overs KKR made 45 for 1. In their next six, they bashed 78 for 0. Game over.

Credit:@ESPNSTAFF

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