New Delhi: Skipper Gautam Gambhir stroked his way to a fantastic 69 to steer Kolkata Knight Riders to a comfortable eight-wicket victory over a hapless Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground on Wednesday.
Chasing a modest 161 for victory, Gambhir and Robin Uthappa (47) stitched together a 106-run partnership to provide a perfect winning platform as Kolkata cantered to the target in 18.2 overs. Starting on cautious note, the duo gradually gained the momentum and punished the Delhi attack led by Mohammad Shami. Gambhir picked a sliding leg-side delivery from Laxmi Ratan Shukla for a six at mid-wicket region to make his intent clear in the fifth over of the innings as the southpaw got his second half-century of the season.
Uthappa also showed his aggressive side against Jean-Paul Duminy to come down against the South African off-spinner and hit a huge six in the widish long-on region. The duo gained confidence with every passing delivery to demoralise the Delhi attack as skipper Kevin Pietersen kept juggling his bowling options. South African left-arm pacer Wayne Parnell finally managed to deny Uthappa his fifty as the Karnataka batsman was caught behind for 47 off 34 deliveries.
Manish Pandey (23 not out) then played the perfect supporting role to make sure that Kolkata do not repeat the Ahmedabad fiasco, where the team lost six wickets for two runs, eventually gifting the match to Rajasthan Royals. On a day when nothing worked for Delhi and everything went in Gambhir`s favour, the left-hander did survive a drop catch and an open run out.
He was finally caught behind while trying to pull a rising Parnell delivery as Dinesh Karthik gloved a beauty in the 18th over. It was left to Kallis (10 not out) to complete the formalities. With misfields galore, the Delhi fielders did little to help their tired-looking bowlers. Earlier electing to bat on a hot and humid day, Delhi posted a respectable 160 for five in 20 overs.
Duminy smacked 40 off 28 balls while Kedar Jadhav blasted 26 off 15 to manage a 55-run unbeaten stand and provide the necessary impetus in the end. Kolkata opened the bowling with off-spinner Suryakumar Yadav with Kallis sharing the new ball. Umesh Yadav drew first blood for Kolkata in the third over, getting De Kock (10)caught by Gautam Gambhir at mid-on. Pietersen (6) looked completely out of sorts in his short stay at the wicket and after being circumspect against the spinners the England batsman ran himself out while trying to take a needless run.
Murali Vijay (24) and Dinesh Karthik (36) then tried to stabilise the innings as KKR continued to juggle their bowling options. The duo added 31 runs for the third-wicket as both the batsmen mixed the right dose of caution and aggression to give some momentum to the Delhi innings.
Trying to push the scoring rate, Vijay finally holed out a simple catch to Sunil Narine at long on as Kallis got his first wicket.
The hard-working Karthik continued to put runs on board and gave Kallis a hard time as he hit the Proteas medium-pacer for a six and two fours in the 11th over. Kallis though got his revenge when he caught the Delhi batsman in the very next over off Shakib al Hasan for 36.
The over-ambitious Karthik tried the paddle scoop again only to top edge the ball to short fine leg.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Jean-Paul Duminy did try to up the ante but clinical bowling from Umesh and R Vinay Kumar kept the batsmen in check even in the middle overs. Kolkata?s spin ace Sunil Narine finally struck in the 16th over to clean up to end Shukla`s agony for 10. Laxman?s exit though proved a blessing in disguise for Delhi as new man Kedar Jadhav smacked a four and a six against Vinay to provide some entertainment to the Kotla crowd.
Duminy and Jadhav entertained the crowd with fours and sixes as they managed to notch up a run-rate of over 13 in the final four overs. With just 2 wins in 8 games, Delhi will certainly find it hard to make it to the play-offs while Kolkata continue to live on hope, prayers and more wins.