Pune: Keeping alive the slightest of hopes in reaching the IPL 6 play-offs, defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders registered their fifth victory of the season by beating Pune Warriors by 46 runs on Thursday. Pune might have thought they had done well to keep KKR to 152 but even that target proved too much to chase. The hosts never looked comfortable and kept losing wickets at regular intervals to fall way short of their target.
Pune's reply began with some drama. The captain Aaron Finch (5) should have been out earlier than he actually was. Robin Uthappa (31 off 35) drove back to Jacques Kallis, who seemed to have got his boot to the ball before it hit the stumps at the non-striker's end. Finch was outside his crease and the decision went to the third umpire, Simon Taufel, who decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the batsman, much to the dismay of a furious Kallis.
Finch, however, could not make anything of the reprieve and was bowled in the same over. Yuvraj Singh's search for a fifty in IPL 6 was extended as he edged L Balaji to wicketkeeper Manvinder Bisla. Udit Birla, the Madhya Pradesh middle-order batsman, was given a go in this match but he went out for just 7. Uthappa started his innings with a couple of fours but had to tone down his attacking play, seeing the wickets falling at the other end.
Angelo Mathews (40 off 28 balls) opened his shoulders and sent the ball over the fence four times but was always fighting a losing battle and went while trying to hoick Sunil Narine. The remaining batsmen hardly made any contribution as Pune folded for 106 in 19.3 overs.
They should really have restricted KKR to a lower score. The visiting team was in a spot at 99 for 5 at one stage, but the Pune bowlers gave away a staggering 53 runs in the final four overs to help KRR cross the 150-run mark.
Gautam Gambhir (50 off 44) and Manvinder Bisla (12) provided KKR a good platform, sharing 45 off 32 balls. Pune's bowlers, however, managed to put the brakes on KKR's scoring by picking up wickets. Bisla was the first to go, stumped by wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The offspinner Parvez Rasool, who became the first cricketer from the Kashmir valley to play in the IPL, leaked nine runs in his opening over but came back strongly in the next and dismissed Kallis (2), caught by a juggling Mathews at short cover.
Gambhir was steady at the other end and got to his fifty off 43 balls, byt Mitchell Marsh, with two wickets in two overs, changed the equation of the innings. The Australian allrounder first accounted for Eoin Morgan (15) and then picked up the crucial wicket of Gambhir, caught by Mathews at midwicket. Yusuf Pathan (3) edged one to the wicketkeeper off Bhuvneshwar while going for a bit shot.
Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate (31 off 21) then came to KKR's rescue by smashing Mathews for two fours and a six to pick up 17 runs off the 17th over.
Doeschate and Manoj Tiwary (15) provided some momentum to the KKR innings by adding 38 off 18 balls for the sixth wicket. Doeschate perished in search of quick runs as he became Bhuvneshwar's third victim, caught by Krishnakant Uphadyay. Tiwary and Rajat Bhatia (13 off 5) played a few big shots to take KKR to a respectable total.