By: Pramod Thomas
Lucknow Super Kings survived an unbeaten blitz of 67 by Rinku Singh to edge Kolkata Knight Riders by one run and qualify for the Indian Premier League play-offs on Saturday (20).
Nicholas Pooran’s 58 guided Lucknow to 176-8, a total that was threatened by Rinku, a left-hand batsman, who smashed four sixes in his 33-ball knock but Kolkata ended on 175-7.
“First reaction is satisfaction,” Lucknow skipper Krunal Pandya said after the win.
“We never gave up, we were put under a lot of pressure but credit to the boys. At one stage, they were 61-1 but I’ve seen it before that at this level, two-three tight overs and we’re in the game.”
The result ensured a top-two finish for Chennai Super Kings, who hammered hosts Delhi Capitals by 77 runs in their march to the play-offs in the first match of the day.
Four-time champions Chennai, led by M S Dhoni, will take on holders Gujarat Titans, who top the 10-team table, in the first qualifier.
The winner will head straight to the final in Ahmedabad on May 28 and the loser playing the winner of the “eliminator” between teams three and four in the second qualifier.
“There is no recipe as such,” Dhoni said on his team’s success in the T20 tournament.
“You try to pick the best players and try to give them the best slot. You use them in the manner where they have most chances of succeeding and groom them in the areas where they are not as strong.”
Two-time champions Kolkata bowed out of the race for the top four, leaving five-time champions Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals fighting for the remaining spot.
Kolkata began strongly to put Lucknow in trouble at 73-5 before the left-handed Pooran hit back in his 30-ball blitz to guide his team to 176-8 at Eden Gardens and was named man of the match.
In reply, England’s Jason Roy, who hit 45, and Venkatesh Iyer gave Kolkata a brisk start in their stand of 61 in 5.5 overs before the Lucknow spinners hit back.
Kolkata lost track after Roy’s wicket but Rinku, who became an IPL sensation with his five sixes off five balls last month, made Kolkata dream again even when they needed 41 off the last two overs.
In the opening match, New Zealand’s Devon Conway (87) and Gaikwad (79) set up Chennai’s win with an opening stand of 141 to steer the team to 223-3.
Skipper David Warner hit a valiant 86 but Chennai kept down Delhi, who are coached by Ricky Ponting, to 146-9 and finish the group stage with eight wins.
The season remains special for Dhoni, who is believed to be playing his last season and has attracted huge crowds wearing the teams’ yellow as a tribute to the legendary cricketer.
Dhoni, 41, though has kept the fans guessing and still not clarified on his swansong.