Valiant unbeaten knocks by Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell led defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders to an emphatic seven-wicket win against two-time champions Chennai Super Kings in their return leg clash of the Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday.
Kolkata chased down the stiff 166-run target with just one ball to spare thanks to the unbeaten 112-run partnership between Uthappa and Russell for the fourth wicket.
Kolkata got off a fine start with captain Gautam Gambhir (19) putting up a 33-run opening stand with Uthappa before getting dismissed by Mohit Sharma.
Manish Pandey (3) and Suryakumar Yadav (2) were dismissed in successive overs as Chennai tightened their stranglehold over the hosts till Russell joined Uthappa at the crease and the two brought up their 100-run stand off 56 balls.
Uthappa (80*) constructed his knock really well. The opener started his innings by exploring every nook and corner of the ground to rotate the strike. It was in the 15th over when Uthappa decided to up the ante and reeled off a series of fine shots off Ashish Nehra.
During that over Uthappa even showed deft touch to open the face and guide the left-arm pacer through third man for a couple of fours.
At the other end, Russell (59*) played power-packed shots and gave Uthappa valuable support. The big West Indian showed his class by thumping Dwayne Bravo for two sixes in a single over.
It got a bit tense in the end before the hosts won with one ball to spare.
Earlier, despite a stunning four-wicket haul by veteran Brad Hogg, Chennai set a 166-run target for Kolkata.
Put into bat, CSK were off to an explosive start, courtesy Brendon McCullum’s 12 ball 32 (3x4s, 3x6s) and Faf du Plessis’ 11-ball 20 (5x4s), but the 44-year-old chinaman bowler, who had come in as replacement for Sunil Narine, lived up to the faith by returning with magnificent figures of 4/29.
Hogg claimed the prized scalps of McCullum and Du Plessis in his first over and completed his spell with the wickets of Ravindra Jadeja (24 from 30 balls; 1×4, 1×6) and Pawan Negi (27 from 13 balls; 4x4s, 1×6) as Chennai finished at 165/9.
With McCullum looking ominous at a strike rate that almost touched 300, CSK had stepped on the gas very early after the first ball dismissal of Dwayne Smith, who was brilliantly caught by a diving Ryan ten Doeschate at point off Pat Cummins.
There were raining sixes and fours all over the park with McCullum at his murderous best as CSK were 52/2 after Gambhir bowled his two pacers Cummins and Yadav in tandem.
He brought in Chawla in the fifth over with Du Plessis on strike and the South African matched his explosive Kiwi partner by smashing the leggie for three boundaries as KKR bowlers looked ordinary without Narine, who was ruled out off the tournament after being called for suspected bowling action for a second time.
T20 format’s prized score of 200 was looking inevitable for CSK but a 44-year-old Australian turned around the fortunes for KKR striking twice in his first over.
Hogg dismissed McCullum LBW with his first ball after the latter tried to go for an expansive pull but failed to read the bounce and then in the fifth ball Du Plessis stepped out only to be stumped by wicket-keeper Robin Uthappa.
All pumped up, KKR employed four fielders — slip, leg slip, silly point and forward short leg — around CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the next delivery.
Dhoni (1) could survive just four balls before being castled by a Chawla wrong one as KKR bounced back in the game, even as CSK were 72 for five after 7 overs.
Bravo and Jadeja ensured that there was no further damage as they batted sensibly putting on 50-run together in as many balls.
After the duo’s dismissals, Negi played a fine cameo when he smashed a wayward Cummins (1/54) for three boundaries in an over before Hogg once again made his presence felt.
Earlier, Dhoni handed Ronit More an IPL debut bringing him in place of Ishwar Pandey while left-arm spinner Negi replaced the injured Ravichandran Ashwin.