At the Eden Gardens on Thursday, CSK were batting with great gusto even after losing Dwayne Smith off the first ball of the match and Suresh Raina in the 4th over. On the crease were the unstoppable McCullum and another famous stroke-maker Faf du Plessis. In just 11 balls, McCullum had made 32 and du Plessis was complementing nicely from the other side. CSK had made 64/2 after 5 overs and there could not have been a better start batting first. Then Gautam Gambhir called Brad Hogg to bowl the 6th over. The wily Australian spinner removed Brendon McCullum with the first ball he bowled and derailed the CSK batting further by swallowing du Plessis as well in the same over. Now after 6 overs CSK stood at 69/4. Gambhir had already brought on Chawala earlier and froze the flow of runs to an extent that only 60 could be scored off the next 64 balls after du Plessis fell. Though CSK lost only two more wickets, they just couldn’t score against Hogg and other bowlers. Dhoni hung around for 4 balls for one run, Jadeja played 30 balls for 24 and Negi took 27 for 13 runs. Even the usually affluent Dwayne Bravo made only 32 off 30. From more than 12 per over at the start, CSK succumbed to 165/9, a little over 8 runs an over. Coming to bat for the chase of 166, Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir began with a 33-run opening partnership before KKR lost Gambhir for 19 off 16. The slowdown affected KKR as well afterwards and they lost two more quick wickets to stand at 57/3 in the 10th over. But from then onwards, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell carried the baton until the end and played stellar roles in KKR’s 7-wicket victory.
MS Dhoni didn’t mind losing the toss to Gautam Gambhir in the 30th match of IPL. Why? Because, CSK’s top order is endowed with a batting firepower that has seen them through on several occasions. Unfortunately, they lost Dwayne Smith of the very first ball from Pat Cummins. That, however, didn’t slow down Brendon McCullum, who still extracted 10 runs off Cummins. Although Suresh Raina initially looked content in playing the second fiddle, he soon ran out of patience and fell to Umesh Yadav of a rash stroke as Piyush Chawala gobbled up a straightforward catch at mid-on. But McCullum was unaffected as he continued in his own carefree way. He found an ideal partner in du Plessis and the two big guys kept hammering the bowlers until Brad Hogg came along.
Of the first ball of the 6th over, the 44-year old Hogg removed the dangerous McCullum with a straight delivery that the New-Zealander missed and took on his pads. The entire KKR team celebrated McCullum’s departure. 4 balls later, Hogg deceived du Plessis with the spin and as he missed, Uthappa whipped off the bails. Fall of two quick wickets set a slowdown from which CSK could not recover. Dwayne Bravo tried the recovery but didn’t have the support from the other end. Dhoni fished for 4 balls before being bowled by a googly from Piyush Chawala and Bravo perished in the 17th over to reduce CSK to 129/6. Jadeja and Pawan Negi prodded on without making any substantial difference and they too fell as Hogg’s victims. In the end, CSK could only reach 165/9 after 20 overs. Brad Hogg returned with figures of 29/4.
KKR began their 166-run chase quite well with the openers putting on 33 in the 5th over. Later, however, they too fell in the rut as CSK bowlers put a tight leash and removed Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav in quick succession to reduce KKR to 57/3 in the 10th over. But the Knight Riders had Uthappa and Russell to see them through with their brave stroke play in middle overs. It was evident that batting became difficult as the pitch slowed down but Uthappa and Russell took that in their stride. Though the victory came of the penultimate ball, KKR were the dominant team on Thursday. Uthappa scored 88 off 58 balls while Russell’s 55 took only 32 balls. The 7-wicket victory was well deserved on a superior performance.