Royals cruise to easy 6 wicket victory
Mohammad Kaif and Yusuf Pathan lead the Rajasthan Royals to a 6 wicket victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens in Kolkata to leave the Knight Riders on the verge of elimination.
It was Rajasthan's ninth win in 11 matches, second over Kolkata, and cemented their status as one of the tournament's favourites.
Meanwhile, it was Kolkata's seventh defeat in 12 matches and practically ended their chances of making it to the last four.
Chasing a target of 148 to win, the Rajasthan team had an early hiccup when Ishant Sharma induced an edge from opener Swapnil Asnodkar (5) to keeper Wriddhiman Saha when the scoreboard read just 16.
South African captain Graeme Smith (24) and Sohail Tanvir (13), promoted up the order, took the score to 42. But in Umar Gul's first over, the sixth of the innings, both fell in quick succession to reduce Rajasthan to 42 for three.
The Pakistani paceman's over was a double-wicket maiden, a rarity in this form of the game.
And when Kolkata captain Saurav Ganguly cleaned up the dangerous looking Shane Watson (19), Rajasthan were in some trouble at 69 for four after the tenth over.
But Mohammad Kaif (34 not out) and Yusuf Pathan (with an unbeaten 48) combined well to put on an unbeaten 81-run partnership for the fifth-wicket and steered their team through. In the final analysis, Kolkata's total was never going to be enough.
Pathan was particularly impressive, his 18-ball knock included five fours and three sixes and helped his team regain the momentum while his big hits demoralised the opponents completely.
Rajasthan made 150 for four and won with 21 balls (3.3 overs) to spare.
Earlier, Kolkata Knight Riders batsmen failed to build up on good starts to finish with a modest 147 for eight in what was a do-or-die tie for them.
Put in to bat, the Knight Riders could not build a single 50-run partnership with none of their batsmen even manging to reach the 40s.
The in-form Rajasthan Royals pacer Tanvir once again bowled well to have impressive figures of 3 for 26, with Munaf Patel (2 for 22) giving him ample support.
For the hosts, skipper Ganguly topscored with 32, but he was nowhere at his best.
Middle order batsman Debabrata Das (31 off 20 balls) looked in fine shape, but got out when his team expected a big knock from him.
The Knight Riders' beginning followed a script that has become familiar for the team.
The first wicket fell in the second over as Mohammed Hafeez (4) tried to loft an away going ball from Munaf Patel over the infield, but only managed an inside edge which went straight to Swapnil Asnodkar at mid on.
The other opener, Salman Butt and Ganguly tried to overcome the initial jolt by stitching together a 33-run partnership, but the former Indian captain struggled to find his timing against the disciplined Rajasthan attack.
Butt (24) played some wristy shots and a couple of classy cover drives, but his essay came to an end in the seventh over when Patel found him plumb before stumps with an incoming delivery as the Knight Riders became 40 for two in the seventh over.
Australian David Hussey then joined Ganguly and the duo added another 31 runs with Ganguly trying to break the shackles as he stepped out to send Shane Warne packing over square leg to bring up the day's first six.
Hussey (11) hit back-to-back fours off Siddharth Trivedi in the tenth over to speed up the run rate and the Kngiht Riders reached a below par 59 for two at the halfway stage.
Spinner Yusuf Pathan then rattled Hussey's citadel with a quick offbreak and new man Das made his aggressive intentions clear with a overboundary off Warne.
Ganguly's far-from-comfortable stay in the middle came to an end when he played a cross-batted heave off Trivedi and finished in the safe hands of Kaif at long on.
Das, looking a man in form, dispatched Pathan into the mid-wicket stand for his second six but got a life a little later when Tanvir failed to hold on to a skier at deep cover.
But Tanvir (3/26) made amends in the very next over as he got the Bengal batsmen bowled with a beautifully delivered yorker as the Knight Riders became 118 for 5 in 17.3 overs.
The lapse did not prove too costly, as the Bengal player returned in the next over.
Twenty nine runs came in the last 15 deliveries as the Knight Riders managed a run rate of 7.35 runs.