Wriddhiman Saha swept, pulled and clubbed his way to the first hundred in an IPL final but he and Kings XI Punjab were upstaged by Manish Pandey and a determined Kolkata Knight Riders batting line-up that chased down 200 with 3 balls to spare and extended their winning streak to nine games to complete a remarkable turn-around that began when they touched down on Indian shores.
KKR had lost three of their first five games when the teams returned from the UAE but put together a run of seven straight wins to end up second in the league table, then finished the job by beating Kings XI Punjab twice to lift the trophy.
This three-wicket victory was very different from their previous one. In that game, KKR batted first and then restricted KXIP to 135, the third straight game in which they had held that powerful batting line-up to less than 150.
This time Punjab batted first, Saha ransacked 115 not out from 55 balls, Narine was bashed around for 46 runs from his four overs, and Punjab posted 199 for 4. KKR are a side that back themselves to chase but their highest score this season prior to this game was 171. The tide, it seemed, had finally turned.
Instead, they chose the perfect moment to make their highest total of the tournament, led by Pandey’s 94 from 50 balls. Pandey kept his head under the most severe pressure, exemplified by his hitting a six off the very next delivery after a wicket fell on three occassions. He was supported first by Gautam Gambhir and then Yusuf Pathan and had taken Kolkata to the brink of victory when he was dismissed by Karanveer with Kolkata needing just 21 from 19 balls.
There was a late wobble when Surya Kumar Yadav clipped Mitchell Johnson to square leg but Piyush Chawla hooked Johnson’s last ball of the 19th over for six to reduce the equation to five runs from six balls. After Chawla sliced Parvinder Awana to the point fence to win the match, he took off on winding victory run with both arms raised before his team-mates chased him down and jumped on him.
Despite the many firsts – Saha scoring a century, KXIP going past 150 and KKR scoring 200 – perhaps the most surprising thing about the final was how little impact the big names had. Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey combined for just two runs, Narine was bludgeoned by Saha and Robin Uthappa was dismissed for five.
It was left to the lesser lights to illuminate the final. It started with Saha, who transformed a moribund KXIP innings that seemed to be going nowhere. Punjab stumbled to 32 for 2 in the PowerPlay, their lowest total of the tournament, and were seemingly headed for another sub-150 total at 58 for 2 after 10 overs.
Saha was having none of it, however, and was given good company by Manan Vohra, who made 67 from 42 balls. The pair added 129 from 12 overs as worried looks spread across the faces of KKR’s players like a virus.
The assault began in the 11th over, when Saha slog-swept Shakib Al Hasan for six and took off in the 12th, when Saha slammed Piyush Chawla for back-to-back sixes over deep midwicket. Gautam Gambhir turned to his match-winner, Narine, to stem the tide in the 14th over, but Saha was in no mood to consider reputations. Sitting deep in his crease, he slog-swept Narine’s second ball in front of square leg for six and followed that up with a pull behind square leg for four to bring up the 100 for KXIP.
Nineteen runs would come off the over and Punjab now had a head of steam that KKR could not contain. Morne Morkel was taken for 20 runs in the next over causing Preity Zinta to jump up and down in the stands and flash her dimpled smile.
A scrambled two off the last ball from the 15th over brought up the 100 partnership from 9.5 overs. Having made 58 from the first 10 overs, KXIP had plundered 64 from overs 11 through 15.
Saha was given a life in the next over when he was on 60, with Narine spilling a caught and bowled chance as he rushed towards mid-on to take a skier and he took full advantage. He dismantled Umesh Yadav in the 17th over, with a straight drive over the sight screen for six arguably his best shot on the night.
He took on Narine again in the penultimate over and after missing the first two deliveries, raced to his hundred in a three-ball sequence that read 6, 4, 6. It was spectacular hitting on the biggest stage against arguably the best T20 bowler in the world.
It wasn’t to be enough though. Pandey and Gautam Gambhir kept the chase moving with 53 from 5.3 overs. The pair took apart all three Punjab’s seamers despite keeping the ball on the ground, showing it doesn’t always take lofted shots to score quickly.
Gambhir fell to Karanveer Singh’s first ball but Yusuf Pathan and Pandey ensured there was no drop-off in the team’s chase. Yusuf took his time to get set, then opened his big shoulders to smack Karanveer Singh for consecutive sixes. Somehow Akshar Patel was able to bowl his first two overs for five runs, but in between Yusuf and Pandey smacked Lakshmipathy Balaji and Awana for 18 runs apiece to ensure there was no damage to the required-rate.
Yusuf’s 36 from 22 balls, and his 71-run partnership with Pandey, was a crucial building block for Kolkata. Though Yusuf, Shakib Al Hasan and ten Doeschate fell within 38 runs of each other, Kolkata had critically kept up with the run-rate. They ultimately left it late, and the tension was clear on owner Shah Rukh Khan’s face, but Chawla held his nerve to set off scenes of jubilation for the boys in purple and gold.
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Updated Date: Jun 02, 2014 14:42:58 IST