Virender Sehwag’s sterling knock the highlight in an insipid batting display by Kings XI Punjab

Skipper Gautam Gambhir led by example, with a match-winning half-century, as Kolkata Knight Riders remained in contention for play-off berth with a comprehensive nine-wicket win over table topper Kings XI Punjab in their IPL match here on Sunday.

Chasing a modest target of 150 on a featherbed, Gambhir anchored the chase to perfection with a well-crafted unbeaten 65 (45b, 7x4) after Robin Uthappa had provided the momentum with a 28-ball-46. Such was KKR’s domination that the match ended with two overs to spare.

Credit should also be given to leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (three for 19) for his brilliant bowling in the middle overs after Virender Sehwag had set the tone for Punjab with a 50-ball-72 that included 11 fours and a six.

KKR now has eight points and remains in the mix, while KXIP has got a timely wake-up call ahead of bigger battles in the knock-out stages of the competition.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for Gambhir who started the tournament with a hat-trick of ducks and now has completed a hat-trick of half-centuries. He now has 23 half-centuries across seven IPL editions — the maximum by any player till date. The southpaw changed his approach by letting Uthappa dominate in the beginning and played himself in before going for the attack. He added 82 runs for the unbroken second wicket with Manish Pandey (36 not out).

Uthappa breaks loose

Uthappa continued his good form as he hit a flurry of boundaries in the Powerplay overs. The floodgates opened in the third over, bowled by Sandeep Sharma, in which Uthappa got three boundaries — a flick, followed by two lovely drives. The next over from Mitchell Johnson was even better as he started with a pulled six and then followed it with three punchy boundaries. The Powerplay yielded 55 runs.

“Robin has taken a lot of pressure off me since he started opening,” said Gambhir about his opening partner at the post-match presentation ceremony.

Earlier, Sehwag showed glimpses of his usual attacking self during his knock but Kings XI had a rare batting collapse as it managed a below-par 149.

Gambhir’s decision to field was vindicated by his bowlers. While Sehwag’s knock was the highlight, the failure of the middle-order, once Maxwell was dismissed, became apparent. Morne Morkel (two for 20) and Piyush Chawla fully justified their selection.

It couldn’t have been a better start for the Kings XI as the ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ started by blasting Jacques Kallis for four boundaries in the first over of the match. Mandeep Singh (0) tried to slash one off Morkel and paid the price.

Wriddhiman Saha joined Sehwag who went about on his boundary spree. He was however dropped on 23 when he pushed hard at a Morkel delivery and ’keeper Uthappa couldn’t pouch on to the delivery.

Saha hit a couple of boundaries off Yadav before Morkel bowled him with an in-cutter. A straight six off Kallis reminded Sehwag of the old as he completed his 50 off 35 balls.

Maxwell didn’t fire as he holed out at deep square leg, trying to slog sweep Chawla. Sehwag was out when he tried to hoist a Chawla googly which stayed low and hit the off-stump.

Once Sehwag was gone, it sparked a sudden collapse and stalled the Kings XI innings.

“On this kind of wicket, a lot of credit goes to Morne Morkel as well. Chawla bowled brilliantly, hopefully he can continue the same way.”, observed Gambhir after the match.

KXIP skipper George Bailey admitted that they missed the services of an extra spinner on this track.

Brief Scores:

Kings XI Punjab: 149 for eight in 20 overs (Viernder Sehwag 72; Piyush Chawla 3/19, Morne Morkel 2/20).

Kolkata Knight Riders: 150 for 1 in 18 overs. (Gautam Gambhir 63 not out, Robin Uthappa 46; P Awana

Teams

Kings XI Punjab: Virender Sehwag, Mandeep Singh, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey (captain), Wriddhiman Saha, Akshar Patel, Mitchell Johnson, Rishi Dhawan, Parvinder Awana.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine.