(Cricinfo) The clash between the two most impressive teams in the tournament proved to be a one-sided affair as Kolkata Knight Riders cruised to a six-wicket victory at a packed Feroz Shah Kotla, displacing Delhi Daredevils from the top spot they had held virtually from the start of the tournament.
Jacques Kallis made two big early breakthroughs, Sunil Narine continued to confound batsmen and Rajat Bhatia quietly continued to prove an important cog in Knight Riders’ bowling as they stifled Daredevils’ formidable batting. The chase of 154 proved straightforward, the only real moment of concern for Knight Riders coming when Brendon McCullum brutally pulled a delivery straight at their dug-out in the 15th over.
Daredevils’ two most productive batsmen this season have been Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen, and their consistency had so far shielded the rest of the team’s batting from too much scrutiny. With Sehwag finally failing after a record five half-centuries in a row and Pietersen back home, the rest of the line-up couldn’t quite deliver.
Brett Lee began with a maiden to David Warner, who was playing his first game of the tournament, but Sehwag and Warner slammed 34 off the next two to provide Daredevils a flying start. Kallis nipped that stand early by slipping in a length delivery after a couple of shorter ones to trap Sehwag lbw. Warner also didn’t last long, nicking behind in Kallis’ next over.
That over ended with an angry confrontation between Mahela Jayawardene and Gautam Gambhir after Jayawardene survived a loud and confident shout for caught-behind. In the next Kallis over, there was less doubt about whether Jayawardene edged the ball but he was lucky as wicketkeeper McCullum spilled a tough chance to his right. He couldn’t capitalise on the lives though, as he was run-out attempting a suicidal single. Gambhir under-armed a direct hit and spiritedly celebrated the wicket.
Bhatia and Narine choked the batsmen, conceding only 25 runs in a five-over stretch in the middle of the innings. The biggest struggle was for the out-of-form Ross Taylor, who scratched around for 16 off 27 deliveries, potentially putting his place in jeopardy. A cameo from Irfan Pathan, who again showed off his clean hitting, lifted Daredevils beyond 150 despite four wickets in the final over from Narine.
That total didn’t prove too much of a challenge for Knight Riders, particularly as the Daredevils bowlers provided plenty of freebies down the leg side. Gambhir and McCullum put on their fourth fifty-plus stand in six innings to demoralise Daredevils as they raced to 60 for 0 by the end of the Powerplay. Gambhir was the more fluent of the openers, extending his prolific run this season with a quick 36 before being bowled by fast bowler Varun Aaron, playing his first match in five months.
McCullum tried to muscle the bowling early on but couldn’t time it too well, though he gradually grew in confidence and was reverse-sweeping Irfan Pathan by the time he was nearing his half-century. As Gambhir’s striking had reduced the asking rate, Kallis didn’t need to try anything fancy, sticking to conventional strokes as he and McCullum added 60 before they were dismissed off consecutive deliveries by Umesh Yadav, who regularly reached 150kph.
Those strikes weren’t enough, though, for Daredevils to hang on to the No. 1 spot, as Knight Riders coasted to victory with eight deliveries to spare.