In a playoff match that featured the two best teams of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) defeated Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) to by 28 runs to move on to the championship round of the 2014 IPL Playoffs. The Knight Riders will play against the winner of the Kings XI Punjab-Chennai Super Kings (CSK) Qualifier 2 matchup for the IPL championship. Regardless of who they play, Kolkata’s depth, consistency and bowling prowess will lead the franchise to its second IPL title.
After George Bailey and Kings XI Punjab won the toss against Kolkata, they elected to field. The decision paid off as Mitchell Johnson got Gautam Gambhir out in the second over after just 1 run scored by the recently-recalled Indian national team batsman. While the momentum seemed to be go away from Kolkata, their duo of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey helped recuperate what was lost with Gambhir’s early blunder. Kolkata scored 55 runs for 1 out in the first 6 overs against Kings XI Punjab.
Akshar Patel got both Uthappa and Pandey out in the middle stretch, as Kolkata was stuck at 73 runs for 3 outs at the halfway mark of the game. Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan got on a bit of a groove but nothing major as they got out with 18 and 20 runs each, respectively. Batsmen Ryan ten Doeschate and Suryakumar Yadav did a commendable job in the final stretch of the match, but the rain definitely affected the overall performance. Kolkata finished the innings with 163 for 8 – a score that initially gave very little confidence to the team’s supporters.
While Kings XI Punjab had a fairly strong start their batting, the lack of scoring in the nine-over middle period proved too costly. KXIP posted 46 runs in the first six overs. The rain settled down, however, and the bowlers took over. KXIP put up just 24 runs during the middle nine-over stretch and lost three wickets. For KXIP fans, the performance was frustrating, to say the least. KXIP were able to put up just 135 runs (8 outs) in their 20-run segment. Umesh Yadav for his incredible bowling performance, finishing the match with a stat-line of 4-0-13-3.
What was most impressive about KKR’s victory was their ability to get over the mental hurdle of a poor batting performance. 163 runs is no special feat and many expected KXIP to surpass the mark fairly easily. Despite their opening batsman scoring just one run, despite the rain affecting their bowling early on, despite numerous events taking place that could have derailed the team, the Knight Riders stayed focused and persevered to a victory. The same will be the case in the title game on June 1, 2014 – whether they play KXIP or CSK.