Monday, May 4, 2009

Doomsday again for Kolkatta Knight Riders - IPL 2009

The Kolkata Knight Riders paid dearly for four dropped catches and inept bowling as they crashed to their sixth defeat in eight matches in the Indian Premier League on Sunday.

The Kings XI Punjab won by six wickets off the last ball at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth and stayed in hunt for a berth in the semi-finals. They clearly outperformed the Knight Riders through the chase and held their nerves in a close finish.

For the second consecutive match, Brad Hodge’s impressive half-century went in vain for Shah Rukh Khan’s men.

Chasing 154, the Kings XI Punjab rode an unbeaten 52 off 41 balls from Mahela Jayawardene and Simon Katich’s 34 off 28 balls to victory. The former Sri Lanka captain was, however, lucky to have got away with a strong leg before appeal off Murali Kartik.

It was Katich and Sunny Sohal’s 43-run partnership off 26 balls that set up the chase after Kumar Sangakkara was dismissed in the first over. Katich and Jayawardene then joined hands to stitch together 33 off 25 balls to put them firmly in control.

Sohal, playing his first match, made 25 off 17 balls, including three sixes. The right-handed former India Under-19 batsman was dropped twice in two balls and Katich also had his share of luck.

Punjab needed six off the last over. Though Ajit Agarkar bowled a tidy spell, it came a bit too late for the Knight Riders. Irfan Pathan, who contributed an useful unbeaten 17, hit the winning run.
This was after Yuvraj’s innings was nipped in the bud by Ishant Sharma, the dismissal inviting a mouthful from the pacer. The aggression didn’t benefit the side, though.

The start wasn’t that attractive for the Knight Riders after winning the toss, but Hodge’s flamboyant unbeaten 70 off 43 balls took the score past the 150-run mark. Only 52 had come off the first ten overs.

Hodge had to overcome a subdued start by the openers and picked and chose deliveries to hit in the first half of his innings before throwing his bat at everything in the final over. Irfan Pathan conceded 21 in the last over that provided the much-needed impetus to the Knight Riders. The left-arm pacer paid for bowling a plethora of over-pitched and full tosses as Hodge and Morne van Wyk went hammer and tongs at him.

With McCullum struggling, Chris Gayle tried to make the most of his last appearance this season. After hitting two consecutive boundaries off Yusuf Abdulla in his run-a-ball 17, the West Indies captain perished trying another flashy stroke over mid on.

McCullum’s form is an indication of the confused state of affairs in the Knight Riders’ camp. A flamboyant striker of the ball, who set the tournament off to a rollicking start last year, the New Zealand vice captain has only been a shadow of his former self after being bestowed with the burden of captaincy.

Sunday he agonisingly battled 31 balls for his painstaking 19 before holing out to deep backward square leg.
While the captain’s form has hit rock bottom, Brad Hodge has been a revelation. Having recorded the Knight Riders’ lone half-century in this edition of the IPL in their previous game against the Mumbai Indians, he carried on in the same vein. The only bright spot in an otherwise dismal tournament for the Knights.

Rotating the strike and picking the loose deliveries, Hodge showed good attacking instincts in hitting 10 boundaries and a huge six.

Sourav Ganguly and Morne van Wyk provided Hodge adequate support with useful cameos. While Sourav made 22 off 17 balls, Van Wyk remained unbeaten on 18 off 12 balls, including a six off the last ball of the innings.

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