Thursday was one of the few occasions this season when Pune Warriors were in with a genuine chance of winning a contest. They had Kolkata Knight Riders on the mat early on at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, after Kolkata decided to bat first. And even though the visitors recovered to post a decent score, Pune should still have believed that they had the capability to chase down the target. On paper, they had the batsmen. But, the problem for Pune has been, their star players have remained big only on paper.
Without doubt, it was Pune’s pathetic batting that cost them the game against Kolkata. Considering the stat that only two batsmen from the hosts’ batting line up managed to get into double figures, one can easily conclude that it was a shambolic performance from Pune. Skipper Aaron Finch could not lead from the front, and perished early. Pune would have hoped that at least for once this season Yuvraj Singh showed the spark of old. But, the experienced southpaw only extended his poor run. About the remaining batsmen, the less said the better.
Considering that all the others in the side struggled, it was important for at least one of the two men who got in to stay till the end. But, sadly for Pune, neither of them could do so. Robin Uthappa was the bigger culprit in this scenario. Opening the batting, he looked well-set, and should have ideally beenthe one to carry the innings on his shoulder. Instead, he left midway during the stuttering chase. Angelo Mathews also got out after playing a brisk knock, but by the time he departed the match was well out of Pune’s grasp. To be fair to Uthappa and Mathews, the lack of support from the other batsmen made their task all but impossible.
In stark contrast to Pune’s wretched batting, Kolkata’s bowling was well-rounded. All the main bowlers chipped in with wickets and also kept the run rate down, which pretty much sealed the game for Kolkata. Jacques Kallis brought all his experience into play and got the early breakthrough for his side, Laxmipathy Balaji got the big scalp of Yuvraj before returning to clean up the tail, left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla chipped in with a couple of crucial blows even as mystery man Sunil Narine was unplayable as ever.
Looking back at Kolkata’s batting performance, the quick runs they gathered at the end made a huge difference. Ryan ten Doeschate swung the momentum Kolkata’s way with some big hits, away after the innings seemed to be heading nowhere. Lusty blows by Manoj Tiwary and Rajat Bhatia towards the end also came in handy. Of course, earlier in the evening skipper Gautam Gambhir signaled his return to form with a fluent half-century. But, without doubt, the knock would have been in vain, had the lower order not propped up the innings in the slog overs.
Turning point of the game: Doeschate hammering 31 from 21 balls to give Kolkata’s innings the much-needed impetus.
--By A Cricket Analyst