x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Robin Uthappa produces another gem as Kolkata beat Mumbai

The Knight Riders keep themselves in contention for the IPL play-offs with a six-wicket win over the Indians.

Robin Uthappa stroked his third IPL half-century of the season against Mumbai last night. Pawan Singh / The National
Robin Uthappa stroked his third IPL half-century of the season against Mumbai last night. Pawan Singh / The National

With a considerable presence of Karnataka players in the Kolkata, one of the jokes that did the rounds, on Twitter and elsewhere, after the player auctions in February was that they could be called “Karnataka” Knight Riders.

That could do the rounds once again after Robin Uthappa hit a 52-ball 80 to help Kolkata beat Mumbai Indians by six wickets yesterday to take a massive step towards the Indian Premier League play-offs.

Gautam Gambhir opted to field on a pitch that favoured the spinners, and that played right into the hands of Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan, who was included in place of Jacques Kallis, as Mumbai were restricted to 141 for five. Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, had scored a half-century, while Ambati Rayudu also pitched in with a 27-ball 33. That apart though, the Mumbai scorecard did not make for happy reading.

In response, Uthappa walked out and orchestrated proceedings against a timid bowling attack to help Kolkata see the game through.

Uthappa started with gusto. He set the tone with a superbly-timed whip through midwicket for four off Lasith Malinga off the second ball of the innings. He did not look back after that. None of the bowlers – Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Lendl Simmons – were spared as boundaries flowed.

Gambhir was undone by Harbhajan – an inside-edge clattering into the stumps. Manish Pandey did not last long either, falling to the same bowler in a similar manner.

Uthappa, however, carried on unperturbed. He executed the inside-out shot with mastery as he completed his half-century off just 34 balls. It seemed like the rampage would not end, but it came out of nowhere. Having lifted consecutive sixes off Simmons, an offcutter had him walking back to loud applause.

Earlier, Mumbai never really looked like setting a big target, Kolkata’s excellent bowling leaving them well short.

Morne Morkel started things off with a tight spell, and it was not long before he claimed the first dismissal, CM Gautam meekly surrendering his wicket. Shakib then beat Simmons as he missed the ball after shimmying down the track.

It was a crucial period for Mumbai, with two new men in the middle. Rohit took his time to bed in, but Rayudu had no such qualms. He was adventurous from the start, but was dropped by Shakib – a tough chance, it must be said – when he was on 9, but he carried Mumbai forward.

Rayudu eventually holed out off Piyush Chawla in the 12th over and Rohit took charge, although he received a large slice of fortune, too, when Yusuf Pathan fluffed an easy catch with the batsman on 11. It seemed to trigger something in Rohit, and with the death overs approaching, he let loose, launching Morkel for a couple of sixes.

Rohit soon completed his half-century, but he was the only one scoring runs. Corey Anderson, having hit consecutive boundaries of Chawla, fell cheaply, while Kieron Pollard looked out of sorts again.

With only 137 on the board at the beginning of the final over, Rohit attempted an unorthodox lift over fine leg against Narine only to be bowled. The over yielded just four runs, and Mumbai ended with a modest total. They needed a big improvement to keep their play-off chances alive.

Manoj Narayan is a staff writer with Wisden India. Visit www.wisdenindia.com or follow them on Twitter @WisdenIndia.

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