The Kolkata Knight Riders extended their winning streak to eleven matches after they defeated the Lahore Lions by four wickets in match number seven of the Oppo CLT20 2014. After restricting their opponents to 151 for 7, the IPL champions, who were cruising to the finish line at one point, suffered a mid-innings collapse and eventually sneaked home in the final over.
On a flat batting track at the Rajiv Gandhi Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad, the KKR opening pair of Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir did not have to break a sweat in their pursuit of 152. The pair operated smartly, always ensuring they had the upper hand over the Lions bowlers. Dot balls were a scarce commodity, there were plenty of singles forcing the bowlers to adjust their lines and both batsmen picked their areas precisely to score boundaries.
If the left-handed Gambhir was the aggressor early on, scoring 31 of the first 36 runs, Uthappa caught up subsequently, contributing 46 runs when the scoreboard ticked over to 100. If Gambhir scored the bulk of his boundaries through the thirdman and point regions, Uthappa generally offered the full face of the bat and preferred to drive in front of the wickets or down the ground.
Uthappa was dismissed against the run of play when he walked down the pitch against the off-spinner Adnan Rasool, yorked himself and had his stumps rattled; he hit four boundaries and two sixes in his 34-ball outing. Gambhir departed two overs later when he advanced down the track but didn’t pick the length of the Mustafa Iqbal delivery and had the woodwork behind him disturbed. The KKR skipper made 60 from 47 balls and hit eight boundaries.
Having seen the back of the two well-set batsmen, the well-documented trait of Pakistan teams fighting to the end, came to the fore as they picked up four wickets in quick time to send some jitters into the KKR dressing room. Suryakumar Yadav, who is fast establishing a reputation of being a very good finisher, saw his team home with three balls to spare.
The result could have been altogether different if the Lahore Lions had held on to their catches and done better on the field. A lot rode on their three-pronged seam attack, but once they couldn’t provide the early breakthroughs, it was always going to be an uphill task for the rest of the bowling attack.
Earlier in the evening, the Lahore Lions struggled to force the pace for major part of the innings. While the batsmen took toll of the medium pacers, they had no answers to the spin twins Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav.
Ahmed Shehzad took toll of the hardness of the new ball and dominated the 51-run opening stand with Nasir Jamshed (10). Mohammad Hafeez would be the 19-year old Kuldeep’s maiden wicket; when their skipper was dismissed, the Lahore Lions were at 75 for 2 at the end of eleven overs.
Shehzad was dismissed in the 13th over when he attempted to hit Piyush Chawla out of the ground but was denied by an athletic catch by Robin Uthappa. His 42-ball 59, which would eventually be the top score in the innings, contained five boundaries and four hits over the fence.
Overs started to slip by quickly and the pressure started mounting on the Lahore Lions to step on the accelerator. But their task was not easy as the batsmen could not pick what was coming out of the hands of Narine and Yadav.
That’s when Umar Akmal came up with the kind of performance only he is capable of. The immensely talented Umar, who had scored 9 runs off the first 11 balls, got stuck into Chawla in the 17th over hitting him for a six and two boundaries off successive deliveries. The 24-year old backed himself, dominated the strike for the majority of the remaining overs, and picked up quick runs as the Lahore Lions finished their 20 overs at 151 for 7. When he was dismissed off the last ball of the innings, Umar had scored 40 off 24 balls which gave the Lions a total they could defend.
The Kolkata Knight Riders will be thanking their stars that their sloppy performance in the field – where fielding and catching was concerned – did not cost them too much. Narine, who became the highest wicket-taker in the CLT20, picked up three wickets conceding only nine runs in his four over spell. Yadav, whose chinaman deliveries were hard to put away, should have had more than the solitary wicket to show; he conceded 21 runs in his four overs.
Brief Scores: Lahore Lions 151-7 in 20.0 Overs (Ahmed Shehzad 59, Umar Akmal 40, Sunil Narine 3-9) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 153-6 in 19.3 Overs (Robin Uthappa 46, Gautam Gambhir 60, Aizaz Cheema 2-42)
Man of the Match: Sunil Narine, for his bowling figures of 4-1-9-3.
Lahore Lions will now face Chennai Super Kings on Tue September 25.