Callum Ferguson's transformation, from a batsman who was struggling to find gaps in the field to a big-hitting finisher, helped South Australia earn their first points of the tournament and heal their damaged net run-rate to a certain extent. Ferguson turned the innings against Kolkata Knight Riders around in a single over and then helped ransack 94 off the last six to set up a match-winning 188 on a slow pitch.
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The Knight Riders' 19-run defeat was their second loss in as many matches and a severe blow to their chances of progressing from their five-team group. Their chase was hampered by frequent wickets at one end and the lack of strike to Jacques Kallis at the other. The game was up when Yusuf Pathan fell, with the score on 102 for 5 after 14.1 overs, and all Ryan ten Doeschate and the tail could do was narrow the margin of defeat, which looked like being much larger until 59 runs came off the last four overs.
For 15 overs South Australia batted with bluster without being too effective. They slogged, often across the line, and tried to hit everything a bit too hard to reach 94 for 3. Then Ferguson found his fluency, and the boundaries, and added 84 runs with Daniel Christian in 7.2 overs, which changed everything.
Ferguson was dropped on 18 in the 13th over, bowled by Yusuf. He had lofted towards long-on, and Kallis ran in too fast, lost sight of the ball, and nearly got hit on the head as it went past him for four. It was Ferguson's first boundary, coming off his 22nd ball. They came quickly and in abundance after that.
In Yusuf's next over, Ferguson lofted to the straight boundary twice, once for four, once for six. He also pulled with power and paddled delicately, finding the spaces that had eluded him earlier. South Australia scored 20 runs off that over. The acceleration had begun.
The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Uppal is Christian's home ground when he plays for Deccan Chargers in the IPL and he too lit it up. In the 16th over, Christian hit his first boundaries, pulling Iqbal Abdulla to midwicket and sweeping over square leg. He brought up the 50 partnership with Ferguson off 29 balls.
For an over or two Ferguson rode in Christian's slipstream, as the allrounder dismantled the Kinght Riders attack, using force to clear the long-on boundary and a deft touch when placing towards fine leg. Christian raced to 42 off 26 balls before holing out to mid-off. Ferguson then ensured a strong finish, pulling Lee into the second tier at midwicket and ending the innings with a massive blow over long-on to end with 70 from 40 balls.
Ferguson played the sort of innings Kallis is known for: a steady, if sedate, start followed by a compelling finish. Kallis, however, was unable to do that today. He didn't get enough strike: at the end of the sixth over, Kallis had faced only eight balls, and only 16 balls after ten. He was caught and bowled for 20 soon after by Daniel Harris, leaving the Knight Riders on 81 for 4.
Kallis' partners had used the majority of the strike to attempt a rash of attacking shots, and perished in the process. Manvinder Bisla struck three fours in the opening over but was bowled in the second by medium-pacer Kane Richardson, whom South Australia had drafted in for this game along with Gary Putland. Putland would finish with 3 for 31. Shakib Al Hasan and Gautam Gambhir hit sparkling boundaries but failed to get past 15.
The contest ended when Yusuf skied Putland towards third man and was caught by Aaron O'Brien, who sprinted back from the circle. It was the first ball off the 15th over, precisely when Ferguson had begun his onslaught in South Australia's innings.