Kolkata Knight Riders have been playing with great confidence lately, and they recorded their eighth victory on the trot at the right moment on Wednesday. In a match, the result of which was meant to provide another chance to the loser, KKR wanted to do things right the first time. Losers, KXIP will play CSK on May 30 at Mumbai to decide who plays KKR in Sunday’s final at Bangalore. In the second match on Wednesday, CSK were marvelously composed in demolishing Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium, despite the home team had begun well. But MI batted wretchedly after putting on 140 for 2 in 16 overs. This was the time for MI to consolidate and put CSK under pressure. That didn’t happen as MI lost 6 wickets in the next 24 balls to finish with 173 for 8.

IPL FinalIn the first match between KKR and KXIP at Eden Gardens Kolkata, Punjab took the field after the toss and quickly removed Gautam Gambhir in the second over. But Robin Uthappa continued nonchalantly with his superlative form with Manish Pandey and carried the score to 67 before Uthappa perished after making 42 off 30 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes. Uthappa’s wicket unhinged KKR as Pandey also fell in the same over and two more wickets fell quickly to make it 108/5 for KKR in the 15th over. Then the rains threatened to spoil the match and covers were brought for about 20 minutes. KKR benefitted immensely from three cameos after the rain break. Ten Doeschate made 17 off 10 balls, Surya Yadav swung his bat for 20 in 14 and Piyush Chawla made 17 off 9. Under the circumstances, KKR’s total of 163/8 looked alright. Their only worry was KXIP’s impressive batting record in this IPL.

KXIP began by losing Virendar Sehwag in the second over, Manan Vohra in the 6th and Glenn Maxwell in the 8th. Before that Vohra had done well to hit up 26 in 19 balls. Later, Wriddhiman Saha scored 35 off 31 balls. Punjab batting showed its inconsistent side as later order batsmen didn’t stay long, except skipper George Bailey, who scored 26 off 17. Wickets kept tumbling with clockwork regularity as KXIP could only muster 135/8 in 20 overs. It was a tame loss for Punjab after some fascinating batting performances in IPL 2014. They now need to beat CSK on May 30 to play KKR yet again in the IPL’s crunch game.

In the second match, Mumbai began in style after batting first. MS Dhoni had chosen to field after the toss but Hussey and Simmons collected 76 and just when it looked like a run-fest for Mumbai, Jadeja bowled Micheal Hussey. But with Corey Anderson joining Simmons, the scoring tempo continued. Loss of Anderson at the score of 99 was a big blow to Mumbai. But Rohit Sharma and Simmons continued with brisk scoring and MI were in a good position, even when Simmons fell as the score read 143/3 in 16.4 overs. With 20 balls left, Mumbai were expected to lift the scoring rate and set a stiff target for CSK. But Mumbai lost the advantage, as 5 wickets fell in the remaining period and only 30 could be added. For CSK, 174 was stiff but achievable with world-class batsmen in their fold.

When CSK began, Praveen Kumar was denied an LBW appeal against Dwayne Smith. In Corey Anderson’s spell, Rayudu and Harbhajan made a mess of a catching opportunity from a Faf du Plessis’ skier, who opened the innings with Smith and scored 35 off 20 balls with 5 fours and a six. Smith scored 24 off 20 balls. Both Smith and Plessis fell to Harbhajan Singh, whose intelligent off-breaks were quite effective. But in-form batsman Suresh Raina blasted an unbeaten 54 off 33 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes. Mumbai’s bowling lacked the sting with David Hussey mauling the attack for 40 in 29 balls with 2 fours and 3 sixes. Brendon McCullum, who dropped lower down in the order, also chipped in with useful 14 off 11 as CSK ran away to victory with 8 balls remaining. It was a sad end for the Mumbai team, which had shown a great batting quality just two days back in their match against Rajasthan. But a huge credit goes to the tenacious CSK, who played a sensible over-all game.

IPL’s seventh edition will soon come to an end with the second qualifier scheduled in Mumbai on May 30 and the final on June 01 at Bangalore. With their consistence performance and balanced composition, CSK looks a better team. Punjab has had a great tournament, mostly on account of their tremendous batting performance. But in their last two games, they have shown inconsistent form and needless dependence on a few individuals. They need to strike their earlier tournament form to challenge the mighty CSK, who have entered the final on 5 occasions out of 7. For Punjab, this is only the second time in the play-off stage. In their two league encounters, Punjab has beaten CSK but that doesn’t count for much in a crunch game. All in all, stage is now set for an interesting duel at Mumbai.

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R K Gupta

Though Mr. RK Gupta was employed as a Mechanical Engineer until 2011, he had a penchant for writing on various topics. But he liked sports, more than anything else, because he was naturally interested in major international sports. In his childhood, he even participated in Hockey and Cricket at school and college levels. It came as no surprise to his friends, colleagues and relatives, when he took to professional writing after his retirement in 2011. Until last year, he continued as a major blog writer for an upcoming Indian website, which even honored him with the top award as the most passionate blogger. For the past eight months, however, Mr. Gupta has been actively associated with Kridangan.com, contributing on nearly all major international sporting activities. Most of his posts are topical in nature, where popular and contemporary sports events are keenly followed by a large world-wide audience.