Kolkata Knight Riders inch one step closer in IPL 5 playoffs with a 32-run win over Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede on Wednesday. It was their ninth win in 15 matches and took them to the second spot in the table ahead of Mumbai, who despite the loss can advance to the next stage if they win their last game against Rajasthan Royals on May 20. Kolkata Knight Riders defended 140 in style against a trigger-happy Mumbai Indians and winning by 32 runs with five balls to spare. Sunil Narine reaped a rich haul of four for 15, backed by medium-pacers L. Balaji (two for 11) and Jacques Kallis (two for 32).
Chasing 141 to win, Mumbai openers Herschelle Gibbs and Sachin Tendulkar got off to a very slow start before the former was sent back by Iqbal Abdulla for 13 in the sixth over with only 26 runs on the board. Karthik joined Tendulkar but the scoring rate remained a concern with both scoffing a lot of balls. Tendulkar however played a few delightful strokes during his innings of 27 off 24 balls, one upper cut in particular that sailed over the wicket keeper’s head for a six. Just when he was getting ready to cut loose, West Indian spinner Sunil Narine cleaned him up in the 11th over with an unplayable off-break. KKR’s tactic of enticing Mumbai Indians’ assembly of stroke players with spin worked beyond its wildest expectations.
Jacques Kallis turned the match absolutely in Kolkata’s favour with back-to-back wickets of the dangerous Kieron Pollard (8) and Dwayne Smith (0) in the 17th over – the visitors still needing 44 to win. Narine soon disposed of Harbhajan Singh and Rohit Sharma to put them out of the contest. Last year’s runners-up folded for 108 in the 20th over with Narine returning with figures of 4 for 15. Wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum pulled his weight with two catches and a stumping. The host handed the match to KKR on a platter with reckless batting, and was bowled out for 108 in 19.1 overs on a bowler-friendly Wankhede wicket.
Earlier, Harbhajan chose to field and his bowlers called the shots in the batting Power Play. Even Gautam Gambhir, who has been in fine form, felt the jitters and struggled to get the ball off the square. KKR started their innings on the wrong foot with Brendon McCullum (1) and Kallis (0) back in the hut inside two overs. RP Singh accounted for both batsmen on back-to-back deliveries in the second over of the innings.
The KKR batsmen appeared in a daze till the 12th over when Tiwary targeted the below-par Harbhajan and tested Malinga’s resolve in the 13th. He broke the stranglehold by stepping out against the off-spinner and clearing long-on. Manoj Tiwary and Bangladesh allrounder Shakib Al Hasan then began the repair work and added 45 runs for the fourth wicket.
KKR climbed to the second spot with 19 points with this victory, ahead of Mumbai Indians (18). Delhi Daredevils remained on top with 20. It hadn’t looked to be a challenging total at the break, it turned out to be a match-winning one, and all but took Knight Riders to the playoffs.