IPL 2017: Reliable Gambhir and in-form Uthappa guide KKR to 7-wicket win

Kolkata Knight Riders continued to impress in IPL 2017 as they put in a clinical performance to beat Delhi Daredevils by seven wickets at Eden Gardens. Gautam Gambhir (71 off 52) and Robin Uthappa (59 off 33) impressed with the bat for the hosts, helping them chase down the 160/6 scored by Delhi Daredevils, who were asked to bat first. Nathan Coulter-Nile was the stand-out bowler for KKR with figures of 3 for 34, while Sanju Samson gave DD a solid platform with a 38-ball 60 earlier in the innings.

KKR, the chase masters

This is KKR’s 12th successive win while chasing at the Eden Gardens. They know their strengths and play to it. Gambhir plays the anchor, while Narine, Uthappa and whoever follows use the long handle. On Friday, the trend followed.

Needing to chase down 160, KKR went about their chase with surgical precision. Despite the early setback of losing Narine, Gambhir stood firm at one end and let Uthappa take the attack to the Delhi bowlers. With the right-hander going well, Gambhir did not fall into the trap of matching his batting partner. He was content taking the singles and the occasional boundary as Delhi’s challenge slowly wilted.

The pair added 100 runs for the second wicket, their fifth overall, as KKR slowly but surely put themselves in complete control. It took a direct throw from Karun Nair to end the stand, with Uthappa out for 59 off 33 in the 13th over. By then, however, the result was a foregone conclusion and Gautam Gambhir came into his own to finish the game off in the 17th over.

Where did Delhi Daredevils really lose it?

At two possible phases.

First, with Delhi Daredevils well placed for a strong finish at 123/1 after 13.5 overs, they had set their sights on a total in excess of 180. Samson and Shreyas Iyer had just set the ball rolling for their perfect finish with two big overs. Soon after, however, Delhi struggled to find their next gear and were left ruing the fact that they couldn’t.

They lost Samson, Iyer and Rishabh Pant in the next two overs. However, with Chris Morris and Corey Anderson still left to bat, they haboured hopes of some big hits. Kolkata Knight Riders tightened the screws and never gave away easy runs. Off the last five overs, Delhi could only muster 29 runs – the third lowest this IPL for the final five overs – and could only hit one boundary. From being well placed for 180+ total at one stage, Delhi could only get 160 when their quota of overs were done. Nathan Coulter-Nile was once again the face of an inspired KKR bowling display with figures of 3 for 34. Against a team like KKR at the Eden Gardens, that was hardly enough.

Despite the low score, Delhi had the bowling attack, perhaps the fastest in this IPL with Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins and Chris Morris, to trouble the hosts. They did that with Rabada dismissing Sunil Narine cheaply. Rabada almost had Robin Uthappa back in the hut too, but a fielding mix-up between Amit Mishra and Samson saw the batsman’s top edge land safely when he was yet to register double digits. Uthappa went on to smash 59 off 33 and helped KKR win on a canter.

What’s with Samson and fiery starts?

Sanju Samson has been one Delhi Daredevils’ in-form players this IPL and one of the best features of him has been his ability to get himself and his team off to strong starts.

Time and again, Samson has used the fielding restrictions to score freely in the first six overs and set a strong base for the team. He’s been striking at above 150 in the Powerplay. On Friday, he continued in the same vein.

Samson peppered the point and cover boundary region with a barrage of boundaries, and despite Karun Nair’s failure to get going, Delhi Daredevils made a pacy start to their innings. By the end of the powerplay, DD had gotten themselves 53 runs for the loss of Nair. Samson had hit 30 off just 16 during that period.

He slowed down soon after, and eventually made 60 off 38 balls. Unfortunately, his side couldn’t take full toll of it.

How does this affect the points table?

With five more matches to go, KKR have made sure they are in pole position to qualify for the next stage. They have 14 points from nine games and have a superb net run rate to boot. It will take some significant shooting themselves in the foot to lose their lead at the top from here on.

For Delhi Daredevils, things could not look more bleak. They continue to struggle at the last spot in the table, although they have two games in hand over next-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore. The fact that they have games in hand should offer them some hope, but the performance today will not. They currently have four points in seven games.

Where do the teams go from here?

KKR next travel to Hyderabad to play the defending champions. Another strong performance there should more-or-less guarantee them of a spot in the next stage. Delhi Daredevils go to Mohali before playing five off their final six games at home. They will pray for a strong performance and a shot in the arm before the run at home.

Brief Scores: Delhi Daredevils 160/6 in 20 overs (Sanju Samson 60, Shreyas Iyer 47; Nathan Coulter-Nile 3-34, Sunil Narine 1-25) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 161/3 in 16.2 oers (Gautam Gambhir 71*, Robin Uthappa 59; Kagiso Rabada 2-20) by 7 wickets

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