Kolkata Knight Riders made the play-offs of the Indian Premier League with a five-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Hyderabad, rising to the occasion and displaying in abundance the quality that sets apart a two-time champion. Opting to bat, hosts SRH were restricted to 172 for nine after a flying start at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Playing in their crucial final league game, KKR held their nerves to chase down a target of 173 with two balls to spare.
If young medium pacer Prasidh Krishna’s three wickets in the last over were the highlight of KKR’s rally with the ball, openers Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine’s scintillating start, scoring 52 runs in 3.4 overs, headlined the two-time winners’ response with the bat.
While Lynn struck a brisk 55 off 43 balls with three sixes and four boundaries, Narine smashed 29 in just 10 to set up KKR’s chase.
Robin Uthappa, who got a life early in his innings, contributed 45 off 34 balls, as the visitors became the third team to qualify for the play-offs after Chennai Super Kings and their Saturday’s opponents.
There were fours and sixes galore, especially from the willows of Lynn, Narine and Uthappa, as the visiting bowlers struggled to pose any serious challenge to KKR’s batsmen.
Though they lost both Lynn and Uthappa when they were going great guns, KKR were never really troubled following that smashing start.
Losing Lynn’s wicket pegged back KKR for a while. They required 52 in the last six overs but a six each by skipper Dinesh Karthik and Uthappa brought the equation down to 26 off 24 balls.
Uthappa and Andre Russell got out with the job yet to be done, but Karthik was there to see his team through.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan top-scored for the hosts with 50 off 39 balls, while Kane Williamson blazed away to 36 in just 17, hitting three sixes.
But KKR, who needed a win in their last league game to make the play-offs on their own, staged a fightback as SRH managed just 45 runs in the last 7.1 overs after Williamson’s dismissal.
The hosts, who have already qualified for the play-offs, were past the 100-run mark in the 11th over.
The 22-year-old Prasidh was the most successful bowler for KKR, returning exceptional figures of 4/30 in four overs. Despite the last collapse, Sunrisers have still got their highest score batting first at home this season.
The Sunrisers were off to a brisk start as Dhawan and Shreevats Goswami (35) added 79 runs in 8.4 overs, an opening record for the home team this season. With his 26-ball 35, Goswami, who has scored a fifty on his IPL debut in the inaugural season, more than made up for Alex Hales’ absence.
Batting for the first time in this edition of the cash-rich league, Goswami got into the act in style, smashing Andre Russell for 20 runs in the third over.
Two fours and a classy six over extra cover from Goswami and SRH were cruising at 36 for no loss at the end of the third over.
Dhawan lofted Narine over long-on for a maximum to maintain SRH’s healthy run rate, but KKR’s last match hero Kuldeep Yadav, after being hit for two boundaries in his first over, castled Goswami with a flighted delivery.
In came the in-form Williamson, and he was off the mark straightaway, with a boundary. Yadav tried another flighted ball, but Williamson smoked it over long-on for a six, as SRH crossed the 100-run mark in the 11th over.
Williamson then smashed medium pacer Javon Searles for two massive sixes over fine leg, off successive balls. But the cricketer from Barbados had his revenge when he had the prolific Williamson caught at deep point two balls later.
Meanwhile, Dhawan was offered a life on 45 when Narine dropped a sitter, but the left-handed India opener could not capitalise and got out for the addition of five runs.