Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders thrashed Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets on a tailor-made Eden wicket on Friday to keep their hopes afloat in the Pepsi Indian Premier League.
The struggling Yusuf Pathan reposed Gautam Gambhir's faith as he finally returned to form with an unbeaten 49 (35 balls; 3x4, 3x6), his highest for the Knight Riders.
Pathan shared an unbroken 78-run third-wicket partnership with Jacques Kallis, who struck an unbeaten 33, as the duo settled the issue with 16 balls to spare.
Kallis struck Brad Hogg over his head for a boundary to finish the chase as Pathan remained stranded one run shy of a half-century but his coming to form ensured Knight Riders their fourth win from 11 matches.
Chasing a modest 133, the Knight Riders set the tone with Gambhir (12) and Manvinder Bisla (29) sharing a 41-run opening-wicket partnership that came off just 33 balls.
For the Royals, skipper Rahul Dravid's decision to bat way down the order at No.7 did not help their cause as they were completely outplayed by the hosts.
Bisla stepped out to Chavan for a six over long-on in the third over, and in the next over, struck back to back boundaries off Watson as they raced to 35 for none in the fourth over. Gambhir never seemed in a hurry as he was happy giving strike to Bisla.
With the Royals desperate for a breakthrough, there was some heated exchange in the middle when Ajinkya Rahane and Bisla engaged in a war of words as both the skippers joined in the middle.
A brilliant stumping of Gambhir by Dishant Yagnik, who stood up to Watson, broke the opening partnership.
Bisla too followed suit which brought Pathan to the middle. The burly right-hander from Baroda straightaway launched the counter attack, slamming Chavan for a huge six over the bowler's head.
The misfiring Pathan grew in confidence as there were a flurry of sixes from him with little effect from the Royals' spin duo of Brad Hogg and Chavan as they took the required rate to less than run-a-ball.
With Pathan taking on the Royals bowlers, Kallis was happy to take the singles as the duo put Knight Riders just 19 runs shy of the target.
Earlier, backed by a good bowling performance on a slow turning wicket, Kolkata Knight Riders restricted Rajasthan Royals to 132 for six.
At the time of going to press, KKR were 111 for two after 14 overs with Yusuf Pathan (35) and Jacques Kallis (25) at the crease.
For the visitors, Sanju Samson top scored with 40 while for the Knights, offie Sachithra Senanayeke bowled splendidly to return figures of 2-26. Packed with spinners and medium pacers, the hosts kept a tight leash on the Royals as their batsmen struggled to score and perished gradually in the endeavour to step up the run rate.
Opting to bat first, Royals made a slow start managing only 34 runs, losing two wickets — Opener Ajinkya Rahane (6) and pinch hitter James Faulkner (1) — in the first six overs. However, opener Shane Watson who has been in red hot form partnered Sanju Samson to consolidate the innings as the duo added 44 runs in 6.2 overs to take the total to 71.
Only when Watson 35 (35balls, 4x4) looked settled for a bigger knock, Knight trump card Sunil Narine pulled yet another trick from his hat as he foxed the Australian catching him plumb in front.
Dishant Yagnik (10) departed after playing two cracking shots to the boundary before being bowled by Senanayeke.
Yet again Dravid chose to stay behind, as Owais Shah walked into the middle.
Samson was sensible in his approach as he did not take any risk against Narine who was as usual tidy.
Even luck also favoured Samson with glovesman Bisla dropping a sitter just when the youngster looked to attack Narine but ended up hitting skywards with the ball taking a top edge.
Samson (40 off 36b 1x4 2x6), however, failed to cash in on the dropped chance as he was dismissed in the next over caught at long on by Jacques Kallis. His fall spelt doom for Royals as runs dried up for the visitors.
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