Kolkata Knight Riders bounced back to inflict a comprehensive defeat on Royal Challengers Bangalore and keep their own hopes alive in the Champions League while making survival difficult for their opponents. A delightful cameo from the home captain, Daniel Vettori, seemed to have set up a close encounter, but the Knight Riders dominated the chase, reminding the Royal Challengers top order of what they should have done with the bat on a good pitch. Brad Haddin, replacing Shakib Al Hasan, did full justice to his role by delivering a flier at the start while Jacques Kallis anchored the reply with support from Gautam Gambhir.
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The Knight Riders were left angered and frustrated by Vettori's crafty batting at the death in the Royal Challengers' innings, but didn't let that affect them in the chase. A spate of misfields and fumbles drew ire from Gambhir, but the batting was calm and clinical in its approach. Haddin gave the initial push by stepping up in the second over to smack the left-arm seamer S Aravind, who's won a call-up to the India squad for the ODIs against England, for three consecutive fours as the bowler struggled with his line.
Haddin's approach came with risks but it wasn't mindless aggression. He used his feet well against spin, charging out to J Syed Mohammad and dispatching him over long-on, and waiting patiently for Vettori to slip in a bad ball - and he did - before punishing it past point. He was unforgiving against a clutter of length deliveries from a struggling Aravind, carving them for sixes over midwicket and the bowler's head, interspersed by a slog for a four. When he fell with the score on 62 in the eighth over, the platform had been laid.
The rest of the innings seemed meticulously planned. Kallis ceded the floor to Gambhi after launching a six over long-on early in the innings, and the Knight Riders captain played his role superbly. The Royal Challengers had faltered in the field in their previous defeat, and a half-chance that went down was perhaps the one big opportunity they had of a comeback. Saurabh Tiwary failed to latch on to a catch from Gambhir at the long-off boundary, lost his balance and crashed into his coach in the dugout. Gambhir was on 2 then.
As the field spread out, plenty of singles were on offer and the pair rotated the strike comfortably, the required rate in control all through. The timely bursts were provided by Gambhir, who hammered Syed to the straight boundary and past point and clipped an off-the-mark Dirk Nannes past short fine leg. The Royal Challengers didn't help their cause by doling out extra runs, either by way of overthrows or wides. Nannes was singled out for punishment in the final surge, Kallis reaching his fifty, albeit with a streaky bottom edge, while Gambhir smashed him for two massive sixes over long-on and square leg. That over, the 16th, fetched 24, the win was completed shortly after.
A spirited performance from the Knight Riders bowlers had given them the advantage for 14 overs of the hosts' innings, the early assault from Chris Gayle being the only highlight with the bat until then. Kallis' stirring reply after being hit for six - a yorker that knocked out Gayle's leg stump - backed up by Brett Lee's extra bounce that dislodged Virat Kohli, made up for the early damage.
The Royal Challengers didn't make use of their line-up's depth, losing wickets after their batsmen got partnerships going, holing out needlessly while an uncharacteristically quiet Tilakaratne Dilshan was stumped smartly by Haddin. With his sly shuffles to the off and the use of those powerful wrists, Vettori, kept company by Syed and Raju Bhatkal, sparked a recovery that left the hosts with the momentum at the end of the innings. It would not be with them for long.