In what could prove to be a definite season, Kolkata Knight Riders have reached the IPL final for the first time. From a poor start to winning seven consecutive games to a late-end hiccup, it has been quite a campaign for the Gautam Gambhir-led franchise. Here, we take a look at how KKR's season has panned out.
In a rain-affected 12-over match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, KKR stumble to 97 for 7 with only three players reaching double figures. In reply, they allow the Delhi Daredevils openers to add 49 and end up conceding the victory with five balls in hand as Irfan Pathan smashes 42 off 20 balls.
2nd match, v RR in Jaipur – lost by 22 runs
Chasing 165, Kolkata end up falling short by 22 runs. Three wickets in three balls from Rajasthan Royals early on derail KKR's chase and the home side don't let them gain momentum, with only Manoj Tiwary's 59 offering resistance.
3rd match, v RCB in Bangalore – won by 42 runs
It takes a couple matches, but finally Kolkata get on board the IPL 5 points table with a 42-run drubbing of hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore. A spectacular batting collapse from KKR threatens to prove decisive, but in the end a total of 165 is more than enough as L Balaji rocks Bangalore with 4 for 18.
4th match, v Rajasthan in Kolkata – won by five wickets
Kolkata make heavy work of a target of 132 in front of the Eden Gardens' faithful, beating Rajasthan with four balls in hand for their second win. There is just one partnership to speak of during their chase on a slow surface but steady contributions from Jacques Kallis, Manvinder Bisla and Manoj Tiwary end up helping KKR home in the final over. The five-wicket victory takes them just ahead of Rajasthan on the points table.
5th match, v KXIP in Kolkata – lost by two runs
The strong turn-out at Eden Gardens is left to go home disappointed as Kings XI Punjab prevail by two runs in a low-scoring but see-saw match. Defending a total of 135, Punjab are in control of the game for 15 overs before Debabrata Das hits some cool boundaries to give Kolkata hope. It call comes down to the final over when the home team need nine runs but some clever changes of pace from Harmeet Singh seals a humdinger. For KKR, their $700,000 signing Sunil Narine's five-wicket haul goes in vain.
6th match, v KXIP in Mohali – won by eight wickets
In a one-sided match, Kolkata breeze to an eight-wicket win to make amends against their opponents from three days prior. Punjab can only manage 124 on their home ground after opting to bat, and Gautam Gambhir's sparkling 66 ensures a straightforward win for KKR.
7th match, v DC in Cuttack – won by five wickets
Kolkata hand Deccan their fifth straight loss and draw level with the other top teams in IPL 5 with their fourth win. The bowlers keep Deccan to 126 for 7 and once again it is Gambhir who holds KKR's chase of a modest total in check before Tiwary hits an unbeaten 30.
8th match, v DC in Kolkata – match abandoned
A heavy downpour drenches Eden Gardens, leaving ankle-deep water in parts of the outfield and forcing this match to be abandoned without even the toss taking place.
9th match, v RCB in Kolkata – won by 47 runs
Gambhir leads the way against with a stroke-filled 93 – in which he is dropped twice – to lead Kolkata to a match-winning total of 190 for 5. His innings includes nine fours and five sixes and comes off just 51 balls. Brendon McCullum (43) and Kallis (41) weigh in with cameos. Bangalore struggle on a slow surface and end up being hammered by 47 runs. KKR remain at No. 2.
10th match, v CSK in Chennai – won by five wickets
Kallis is exemplary with the ball in helping keep Chennai to 139 for 5, but it is Gambhir yet again who picks up the Man-of-the-Match award for a sensible 63 off 52 balls that anchors Kolkata's successful chase. The target is knocked off with five wickets and two balls in hand, showing how tough it is to score on the Eden surface. It is Gambhir's fourth half-century in IPL 5 and each helps KKR to victory; however, he hands it over to Das, whose unbeaten 11 off four balls sealed a nervy chase.
11th match, v PWI in Kolkata – won by seven runs
Kept to a middling 150 for 5 after Gambhir (56) and McCullum (42) put on a rousing 113 in 12,3 overs, Kolkata fight hard to beat Pune Warriors India. Once the openers are dismissed, KKR manage just 37 runs in the last 7.3 overs. Pune struggle to forge partnerships and once Sourav Ganguly is dismissed for 36 – oddly batting at No. 7 – the visitors lose steam.
12th match, v DD in Delhi – won by six wickets
Led by a fine all-round performance from Kallis, Kolkata oust Delhi from the top spot. The two most impressive teams square off in what turns out to be a one-sided match; Kolkata keep Delhi to 153 for 9 and then knock off the target with eight balls to spare. Kallis (2 for 20) and Narine (2 for 23) shine with the ball and McCullum (56), Gambhir (36) and Kallis (30) chip in to hasten victory for KKR.
13th match, v MI in Kolkata – lose by 27 runs
Kolkata's run of seven unbeaten games comes to an abrupt halt as they are beaten comprehensively by Mumbai, who post 182 for 1 thanks to a maiden IPL century from Rohit Sharma. Rohit and Herschelle Gibbs, playing his first game this season, set up the win with a 167-run stand. Kolkata's bowling fails to impress and in reply the batsmen can only muster 155 – Kallis top-scores with 79 and Yusuf Pathan makes his first semi-significant score of the season, an unbeaten 40.
14th match, v CSK in Kolkata – lost by five wickets
Another loss, this one a heart-breaking last-ball defeat at the hands of CSK. Chasing 159, Chennai need five runs off the final ball of the match, bowled by Rajat Bhatia, and Dwayne Bravo hits it for six. Kolkata remain in the top four but there is plenty of concern about whether they can stay there with two matches remaining.
15th match, v MI in Mumbai – won by 32 runs
Kolkata’s batting stumbles to 140, which ends up being plenty after Gambhir's decision to play three spinners at the Wankhede Stadium proves a masterstroke. Mumbai reach the halfway mark of their chase with just two wickets down, but Narine's dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar proves decisive. Narine finishes with 4 for 15 as KKR stay alive with an important win.
16th match, v PWI in Pune – won by 34 runs
With this big win over Pune, KKR clinch the No. 2 spot and ensure a qualifier match with table-toppers Delhi. As against Mumbai, Kolkata don't really express themselves with the bat but a total of 136 for 4 on a tricky surface proves enough. A sloppy Pune line-up fails to cope with KKR's spin-heavy attack and slump to their ninth straight defeat, an IPL record.
1st Qualifier, v DD in Pune – won by 18 runs
In their biggest match ever, KKR put one over Delhi to book a maiden IPL final. They look out of sorts until Yusuf and Laxmi Ratan Shukla inject 56 runs in four overs to set Delhi a target of 163, which proves too much for a muddled Delhi line-up. Kallis and Narine are exemplary with the balls to secure an 18-run win.