Punjab Kings XI might have stood tall, mighty as a king, leading the table with no other team coming even within a whiff of breaking their defenses. Just like in chess, the king that is too well defended can be felled only by the Knight — they call it the smothered mate. Kolkata Knight Riders pulled off just the exact smothered checkmate on the Kings.
The 2012 IPL champions, KKR, needing 200 for victory, lifted the title for the second time, winning the battle of the titans with three wickets in hand. Undoubtedly, the hero of KKR's successful run chase turned out to be the local boy Manish Pandey, who played a match-winning knock of 94 off 50 balls, studded with seven boundaries and five sixes.
Though not at his best, Pandey ensured there were no hiccups as KKR's fortunes depended on him. He was involved in two fruitful partnerships that set the stage for his team's overwhelming victory. Pandey put on 53 runs for the second wicket with his captain Gautam Gambhir and later on, the Bangalore boy added 71 runs for the fourth wicket with Yusuf Pathan (36). It was mainly due to this partnership that the
Kolkata team could maintain a healthy run rate right through. Though a couple of wickets fell midway through the innings, match was well within KKR's grasp. For all the grind that they had to go through the tournament, the victory must have a come as an icing on the cake.
Opportunities are hard to come by. When they come, grab them with both the hands. This is what Wriddhiman Saha did when his captain George Bailey asked him to go up the order. Coming in at No 4 when Kings XI Punjab were in a spot of bother, Saha played the innings of his life. His unbeaten hurricane knock of 115, studded with 10 boundaries and eight sixes, propelled Punjab to an imposing 199 for four in 20 overs.
There was no Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell or David Miller for a change. It was Saha all the way from the moment he made his way to the centre stage. Even as questions were raised about promoting Saha up the order, the West Bengal 'keeper-batsman took his time before launching a savage attack on KKR bowlers. He was in such a murderous mood that KKR's frontline bowlers — Morne Morkel and Sunil Narine — looked ordinary. Asked to bat first, Punjab were off to a disastrous start. With Sehwag and Bailey back in the pavilion with only 30 runs on the board, Punjab's batting looked like it was cracking.
All eyes were on the other opener Manan Vohra (67, 52b, 6x4, 2x6) and the pocket dynamo called Saha. Waiting for the right opportunities to strike, the duo put on an invaluable 129 runs for the third wicket to help their team on the road to a massive total. KKR attack looked disciplined when the innings began as Punjab could muster only 58 runs in the first 10 overs. Vohra and Saha knew nothing was lost as there were many overs left. Expectedly, the floodgates opened after 13th over. Boundaries and sixes which were hard to come by till then started flowing from the blades of Saha and Vohra.
KKR captain Gautam Gambhir, who had the game under control, looked to be running of out of ideas. He made frantic bowling changes to stem the run glut but to no avail. Soon after reaching his 50, Saha, in particular, was playing like a man possessed. Ruthless in his approach, Saha clobbered the bowlers all over the ground even as Punjab were inching towards the 200 mark. Saha was so dominating that Vohra's equally responsible knock went unnoticed. Seemingly in a hurry to reach three-figure mark, Saha slammed Narine for two sixes and a boundary to reach the landmark in style.