x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Openers Uthappa and Gambhir spearhead Kolkata as Knight Riders chase down Punjab

Kings XI had won seven of last eight matches to go top of IPL 7.

Gautam Gambhir of Kolkata Knight Riders, pictured during an Indian Premier League match against the Rajasthan Royals on April 29, 2014, hit 63 not out against Kings XI Punjab on May 11, 2014. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Gautam Gambhir of Kolkata Knight Riders, pictured during an Indian Premier League match against the Rajasthan Royals on April 29, 2014, hit 63 not out against Kings XI Punjab on May 11, 2014. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Tactically and technically, Kolkata Knight Riders brought their A game to the Barabati Stadium on Sunday. They needed to, if they entertained visions of putting it past table-toppers Kings XI Punjab and reigniting their IPL campaign.

With a performance that was as thoughtful as it was authoritative, Kolkata conquered Punjab at the latter’s second home, by the commanding margin of nine wickets, during a straightforward chase.

Taking cues from their narrow defeat in Abu Dhabi last month when Morne Morkel and Piyush Chawla were their best bowlers, Kolkata rang in the changes, bringing this pair in ahead of Shakib Al Hasan and R Vinay Kumar.

The raised eyebrows were comprehensively lowered when the South African paceman and the Indian legspinner finished with combined figures of 8-0-39-5, excellent returns on a decent track against the most feared batting line-up of the competition.

Neither Glenn Maxwell nor David Miller was allowed any leeway, Virender Sehwag’s flamboyant 50-ball 72 the primary reason why Punjab, put in by Gautam Gambhir, managed 149 for 8, well below par under the conditions.

Punjab haven’t been about just a strong batting unit. In Sandeep Sharma and Mitchell Johnson, they also have one of the better new-ball attacks in the competition. But once Robin Uthappa decided to show who the boss was, things went even more pear-shaped for George Bailey’s side.

Uthappa and Gambhir followed up previous stands of 121 and 106 with 68 for the opening wicket as Kolkata raced to 150 for 1 with two overs to spare for their fourth win in nine games, leaving them with everything to play for over the next fortnight.

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R Kaushik writes for Wisden India. Visit wisdenindia.com or follow them on Twitter

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