Kolkata Knight Riders zoomed to the top of the Indian Premier League (IPL) table riding on Robin Uthappa’s gritty half-century and disciplined bowling performance to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 17 runs at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
After a shaky start being put in to bat by visiting captain David Warner, Uthappa stemmed the rot with a brilliant 68 (39b 5×4 4×6) to help the men in purple post 172/6.
Sunrisers, in their run chase, lost wickets at regular intervals with David Warner (26; 30b, 4×4, 0x6) and Yuvraj Singh (26; 16b, 2×4, 2×6) top-scoring for the visitors who batted very poorly to finish at 155/6 in 20 overs. Naman Ojha (11) and Vipul Sharma (21) were at the crease at the end.
The defending champions made a steady start with Warner and Shikhar Dhawan (23; 22b 4×4; 0x6) stiching to together a 46-run stand off 40 deliveries.
But once the spinners came to the party, both the openers departed in quick succession. First, Dhawan holed out at long on to Yusuf Pathan who in the end conceded just just two runs in his first over.
Soon, Warner — not a great player of spin — fell to the guile of chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
The southpaw could not read him from the first ball and finally picked out Chris Woakes at long off for an easy catch less than one month after falling to the same bowler while playing for Australia against India in the fourth Test at Dharamsala.
Moises Henriques (13; 10b, 2×4, 0x6) followed suit in the next over, playing a uppish drive off Woakes which the England bowler latched onto in his follow through well.
Deepak Hooda (13; 7b, 1×4, 1×6) failed to shine also, missing the line off Narine’s delivery for Uthappa to effect an easy stumping.
Just when Yuvraj looked set for a match-winning knock smacking Umesh Yadav for a six and four in consecutive balls, Woakes got the back of the southpaw with a slower cutter that substitute Rishi Dhawan pouched at long on.
Earlier, Uthappa and Manish Pandey (46; 35b, 3×4, 2×6) stitched together a 77-run stand for the third wicket.
Openers Sunil Narine (6; 9b, 1×4) and skipper Gautam Gambhir (15; 16b, 2×4, 0x6) departed early to leave the hosts tottering at 40/2.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/20) bowled wonderfully well with a superb first spell that yielded 2-0-7-1.
Coming in at No.3, Uthappa used all his experience to engineer a crafty 68 (39b 5×4 4×6) along with Manish Pandey who was guilty of a slow start — scoring only 13 in his first 18 balls — to finally score a 35-ball 46 (3×4, 2×6). The pair stitched together a 77-run third wicket partnership.
Narine failed to repeat his heroics of two days ago as a fiery Bhuvneshwar uprooted his off-stump with an in-swinging yorker to which the leg-spinner had no answer.
In the previous over, Narine had slapped Ashish Nehra down the wicket.
Bhuvneshwar looked dangerous in his first spell of two overs (2-0-7-1) getting the ball to swing away from the right hander.
Just when it looked like Gambhir was about to continue from where he had left against Kings XI Punjab, Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan (1/29) continued his purple patch with the KKR captain trying to cut a straight one that skidded off the surface and clattered into his stumps.
After the Powerplay, KKR were in a spot of bother at 40/2 with Pandey joining Uthappa in the middle.
Uthappa upped the ante after the break, hitting Moises Henriques and Vipul Sharma — both being inducted in the first XI in place of Mustafizur Rahman and Vijay Shankar — for two and a six respectively.
The clean-hitting right-hander from Karnataka brought up his half-century, sweeping Rashid to deep midwicket where Shikhar Dhawan misjudged a difficult catch attempt. Together with Pandey, the duo who play their domestic cricket together, tore apart Sunrisers.
Uthappa, in the process, became the third batsman after Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan to score 1500 runs for KKR.
Cutting (1/41) finally got Uthappa out — his legcutter forcing the 2007 T20 World Cup winning player to mistime his pull with Rashid running from deep midwicket to long on to take the catch.
Bhuvneshwar halted Pandey from scoring a fifty, getting the back of him as Pathan remained unbeaten at 21 off 15 with Suryakumar Yadav and Colin Grandhomme falling to Nehra and Bhuvneshwar respectively.
KKR now have six points from four outings, while Sunrisers have four in their kitty from the same number of matches.