With the batting line-up that Kings XI Punjab has at its disposal, Kolkata Knight Riders' total of 163/8 was thought to be less and easily achievable. But KKR bowlers spearheaded by Umesh Yadav crushed the table toppers in the league stage, KXIP, by 28 runs in the first qualifier at the Eden Gardens to book a direct entry into the final to be played on June 1 in Bangalore.
KKR await the winner of the second qualifier – KXIP and winner of MI-CSK Eliminator – that will be played in Mumbai on Friday in pursuit of their second title in three years.
Though there was not a single half-century in the match, Orange Cap owner Robin Uthappa's 42 and useful contributions throughout helped KKR post a challenging total.
It proved to be more than enough as KKR bowlers kept a tight leash on the KXIP batsmen with Yadav hogging the limelight with outstanding figures of 4-0-13-3. South African pacer Morne Morkel supported Yadav to finished with 2/23 while leg-spinner Piyush Chawla bowled smartly to restrict Kings XI Punjab to 135/8 in 20 overs and hand KKR a record eighth victory in a row.
Sent into bat, KKR had posted 163 for eight, riding on in-form opener Robin Uthappa's 30-ball 42.
Uthappa once again laid the foundation with the help of four boundaries and two sixes in his 10th consecutive 40-plus score to push KKR's total in a rain-interrupted match.
With KXIP at 17/1 in 3.2 overs, drizzle had started to fall and they were well behind the Duckworth-Lewis equation of 37 required from five overs. The umpires, though, decided to continue with the proceedings.
Manan Vohra smacked Shakib Al Hasan for two consecutive sixes in the next over to make the equation in KXIP's favour with the scoreboard reading 39/1 from five overs.
But KKR bounced back to dismiss Vohra when Morkel had the opener in the next over to make the D/L equation in the home team's favour.
Dangerman Glenn Maxwell (6) did not last long and was trapped by Yadav. KXIP were 55/3 in 7.5 overs, 11 runs behind the par score.
It was Saha, who looked steady in the middle and kept KXIP in the hunt with some stunning strokes, but Morkel ensured that the wicketkeeper-batsman did not prolong his innings.
David Miller was dropped on 1 but he could not make it count and was castled by Chawla, while Yadav claimed his third victim in the form of the skipper George Bailiey, though by then KKR had the match in their hands.
Earlier, the spinning duo of Karanveer Singh and Akshar Patel shared five wickets between them to help Kings XI Punjab bounce back before KKR struck 15 in the last over to prop up the total.
—(With agency inputs)