Two rain interruptions resulting in a three-hour delay could not stop the red-hot Kolkata Knight Riders as they knocked out defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League Eliminator. In the process, they avenged last season's defeat at the same stage.
The match which began on Wednesday night, ended on Thursday morning at 1.27 am. Needing 48 runs in six overs (D/L method) to set up a Qualifier 2 date with Mumbai Indians at the same venue on Friday, the two-time champions stuttered in the chase early on but coasted home to a seven-wicket win with four balls to spare.
Kolkata were reduced to 123 in the second over after Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/11) and Chris Jordan (1/9) struck early and Yusuf Pathan was run out. However, skipper Gautam Gambhir took the team home with an unbeaten 19-ball 32 that included two hits to the fence and an equal number over it.
Earlier, with three balls remaining in Hyderabad's mediocre run with the bat, the skies opened up. But before that, when the champions' explosive batting line-up was put to test by a disciplined Kolkata bowling attack, on a slow pitch, runs came at a trickle for the full course of their innings.
Put in to bat, David Warner's men were kept on a tight leash by the Kolkata bowlers. Gambhir's side's bowling charge was led by Aussie pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile (3/20) and restricted SRH to a modest 128/7.
With the ball not coming on to the blade, Gambhir's acumen in mixing pace and spin was commendable. On their part, Hyderabad's opening pair of Warner (37, 35b 2x4, 2x6) and Shikhar Dhawan (11, 13b, 1x4) failed to get the team off to a good start. Dhawan skied a Umesh Yadav delivery for Robin Uthappa to pouch in the fifth over and Hyderabad could muster only 30/1 in the Powerplay.
The only time Hyderabad looked to up the ante was during Warner and Kane Williamson's (24, 26b, 2x4, 1x6) second-wicket partnership of 50 in 45 balls. But the run-rate dropped after Sunrisers lost both the top-order batsmen in a span of three balls (753 in 12.2 overs).
While Warner lost his middle stump to Piyush Chawla, Williamson was Coulter Nile's first victim, failing to clear Suryakumar Yadav at extra cover. Yuvraj Singh's stint in the middle too was brief. Barring Vijay Shanker's 17-ball 22, there was no other noteworthy show in the middle-order, which unraveled in quick time.