Kolkata Knight Riders have blown hot and cold this season. In 13 matches so far, they have not won more than two in a row. Consistency is something that has eluded the former champions.
Up against Chennai Super Kings, who are not in the reckoning for the play-offs, Kolkata needed a win on Thursday to move inside the top four. Unable to defend 28 in the last two overs, they suffered a six-wicket loss and remained fifth with 12 points.
To qualify, Kolkata have to beat Rajasthan Royals on Sunday and depend on other results to go their way. They could finish inside the top four even if they lose their last league fixture, but that is highly unlikely. After Thursday’s match, Mumbai Indians became the first team to qualify for the play-offs.
Riding opener Ruturaj Gaikwad’s 53-ball 72, MS Dhoni’s men registered their fifth win of the season, chasing 173. It was a second consecutive half-century for the 23-year-old after scores of 0, 5 and 0.
In a season without many takeaways for the Men in Yellow, Gaikwad is showing some spark and reminding everyone of the talent that he possesses. It bodes well for the team ahead of the next edition.
It was a game where momentum swung frequently. After posting a competitive 172/5, Kolkata bowlers struggled to exert pressure on Chennai in the first 10 overs. But spinners Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine bowled economically in the middle — the duo conceded less than six runs an over — to take the game till the end.
Varun accounted for two wickets, including Chennai skipper Dhoni. However, it went in vain as Ravindra Jadeja smashed two sixes in the final over to take his team home.
Earlier, Nitish Rana scored a 61-ball 87 to power Kolkata to a competitive total. With Shubman Gill, the southpaw shared a 53-run stand, the former champions’ first fifty-plus opening partnership this season.
Having started on a slow note hitting 35 runs from 34 balls, Rana shifted gears midway through the innings and ended with 10 fours and four sixes.
An innings mixed with caution and aggression, it was the 26-year-old’s highest IPL score. With Dinesh Karthik’s quickfire 21, Kolkata accumulated 66 in the last five overs after scoring just 73 in the first 10 overs.
Brief Scores: Kolkata 172/5 in 20 overs (Rana 87, Ngidi 2/34) lost Chennai 178/4 in 20 overs (Gaekwad 72, Jadeja 31 n.o, Chakravarthy 2/20)