(The Times Of India)
Even before the first ball was bowled in the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians at the Eden Gardens on Sunday evening, the second spot on the points table was for KKR to lose.
With Chennai Super Kings going down to Royal Challengers Bangalore in an earlier match of the day, KKR, with a better net run rate than CSK, had to win Sunday’s match with a relatively decent margin to take the position ahead of CSK. But the Gautam Gambhir-led side failed to do so as New Zealander James Franklin played a dream innings, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat to give Mumbai Indians five-wicket victory.
Needing 21 runs to win in the last over, Franklin hit Laxmipathy Balaji for four consecutive fours. Ambati Rayudu facing the last ball, needed to hit at least a boundary for victory, after Franklin took a single on the fifth ball.
Rayudu did a Javed Miandad, hitting a huge six over the deep square leg to silence a capacity Eden crowd. The result meant the two sides, finishing three and fourth, will face off again in the playoff eliminator tie on Wednesday. CSK finished second, ahead of Mumbai, on better run rate.
If it was opener Jacques Kallis whose innings of 59 helped KKR post a challenging total of 175 for seven, the highest score at the Eden Gardens in this IPL season, Delhi lad Rajat Bhatia made an impact with the ball, removing Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar in three consecutive overs to restrict MI’s run chase. Bhatia ended with three for 22 from his four overs.
It was again a batting collapse for MI but they finally managed to win after three successive defeats. Except for brief period when Harbhajan Singh and Tendulkar shared a 57-run second wicket stand, MI never really looked like capable of romping home.
Only Franklin thought otherwise. The Little Master, who played his first IPL match at the Eden Gardens on Sunday, held fort at one end and played some glorious shots to the delight of the capacity Eden crowd. But he ran out of support and fell trying to clear the field.
Put into bat by MI skipper Sachin Tendulkar, the Knights were on the backfoot losing two quick wickets – that of opener Sreevats Goswami and Gambhir.
But local lad Manoj Tiwary, who is having a great IPL this season, once again took charge of the proceedings to take KKR out of the woods.
Just when he threatened to take the match away from the visitors, the Bengal Ranji Trophy skipper perished for 35 failing to beat a direct throw from Harbhajan Singh at short third man while trying to return to his crease.
The stage was thus set for senior pro Kallis to show the way and the South African all-rounder came up with a classic innings.
He played the typical waiting game in the initial overs, trying to gauge the pace of the wicket and playing second fiddle to Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan.