Cuttack: The Deccan Chargers bowlers strived to earn their side a maiden victory in this season of the IPL but, even on a slow pitch that turned, they did not have enough runs to defend. The upshot was a fifth consecutive defeat for the home side while Kolkata Knight Riders drew level with the other top teams in the tournament with their fourth win. The finish, however, was far more tense and hard fought than was expected after Chargers had been limited to only 126.
For the briefest of periods, Chargers looked like posting a stronger total. And then, though wickets did not fall in a heap, the scoring-rate began to splutter and the innings stuttered. The odd boundary would be followed by periods of low productivity, depriving Chargers of all momentum. The Knight Riders' chase followed a similar pattern - at no stage did the batsmen consistently dominate the bowling. However, they kept the situation under control by staying abreast with the asking-rate, ensuring the pressure did not get too intense to handle.
While Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis were steering the chase, Knight Riders were in control. Then Gambhir mis-hit Anand Rajan to mid-off, leaving his team on 64 for 3 in 9.5 overs. Yusuf Pathan clouted one six off the spinner Ankit Sharma before trying to slog the next ball and getting bowled. Kallis, however, stayed calm and in the company of Manoj Tiwary took Knight Riders slowly but steadily towards their target. (Also see: Match highlights in pics)
Things came to a head when Kumar Sangakkara brought back Dale Steyn for his final over, with 26 to defend off 24 balls. Kallis drove hard at the first ball, and edged past the keeper for four. The second, he edged to the keeper. Steyn, now pumped, bowled with hostility at Debabrata Das. He then got into a minor confrontation with Tiwary, who came towards the bowler to exchange words after playing to mid-off, and then had to scramble back as Kumar Sangakkara threw at the stumps but missed.
The pressure built up in the 18th over - Knight Riders scored only 3 off four balls - and 17 were needed from 14 deliveries. Then Das lofted Veer Pratap Singh towards long-on, where Rajan ran in but misjudged the catch, costing his side a wicket and two runs. Chargers, whose coach Darren Lehmann had said they fielded like 14-year olds earlier in the week, had fluffed their last chance.
The start in Cuttack had been delayed by a little more than an hour because of rain, but no overs were lost. Before the interruption, however, both captains had got what they wanted at the toss, with Sangakkara saying he would have batted after Gambhir chose to bowl. Sangakkara did not go on to have a good day, losing his middle stump to L Balaji after a scratchy 12 off 15 balls.
Shikhar Dhawan, on the other hand, was spunky at the start. In the third over, he heaved Yusuf, who had opened the bowling with his offspin, over wide long-on for six. Little did Chargers know that it would be the innings' only six, until Steyn hit one in the 20th over. Dhawan also pulled and drove Brett Lee powerfully for four, gathering five boundaries in his first 22 balls. Little did Dhawan know he would not hit another one in his next 28.
Chargers had made 30 for 0 after four overs when the slowdown began, with Sunil Narine and Balaji operating with discipline. After Sangakkara fell, Dhawan and Parthiv Patel batted without dominating the bowling. Parthiv was eventually run out in the 12th over, but even Cameron White, who replaced Daniel Christian for this game, could not improve Chargers' situation. He fell slogging Lee to deep square leg; Lee's last two overs, the 15th and 17th, yielded only four runs.
Dhawan had anchored the innings but he too was going nowhere, and his struggle ended when he mis-hit a full toss from Rajat Bhatia to deep midwicket. He was gone for a run-a-ball 50. He would say later that the pitch was hard to bat on. Knight Riders also found batting tough, but they were tough enough to get over the line.