Pandey guns KKR to second title
Kolkata Knight Riders 200 for 7 (Pandey 94, Karanveer 4-54) beat Kings XI Punjab 199 for 4 (Saha 115*, Vohra 67) by 3 wickets and 3 balls to spare
In a high-intensity final played in flawless spirit between two teams full of top-billed cricketers, the five headlining performances came from Indian players without international Twenty20 experience. Four of those efforts were for Kings XI Punjab, in search of their maiden IPL title in seven seasons, but the defining one was played by Manish Pandey and he ensured Kolkata Knight Riders' victorious run of eight matches leading into the final culminated in their second championship.
Pandey's 94 off 50 balls, an innings fuelled by an urgency that did not abate, pulled off the highest successful chase in any Twenty20 final. He lit up the Chinnaswamy Stadium, as Kings XI legspinner Karanveer Singh picked off three of his team-mates, and as left-arm spinner Akshar Patel displayed outstanding composure to concede 5.25 an over, while most bowlers on both sides bled at more than 10. Pandey's gutsy salvo came in response to Wriddhiman Saha scoring the first hundred in an IPL final, and Manan Vohra compiling a half-century, to lead Kings XI to 199. Knight Riders were left needing to achieve their highest score of the season; they did it with three balls to spare.
Pandey, however, did not see the chase through. He was Karanveer's fourth wicket and when he walked off the field, raising his bat to acknowledge cheers at a venue he calls home in the Ranji Trophy, Knight Riders needed 21 off 18 balls. Through singles the equation came down to 11 off seven, and Mitchell Johnson, who had bowled a succession of yorkers in his final over, signed off with a half-tracker. Piyush Chawla hooked it for six. Kings XI captain George Bailey was out of options and had to give the final over to Parwinder Awana, who had conceded 38 in three previous overs. His third ball was a full toss outside off stump, and Chawla carved it to the backward-point boundary, triggering off a Knight Rider pitch invasion.
At no stage during the chase of a daunting target did Knight Riders fall far behind the asking rate, which was 10 per over at the start. Pandey watched Robin Uthappa drive the first ball of the innings to the extra-cover boundary and then perish off the fourth, and when he took strike for the next delivery, Pandey whipped a short of a length offering from Johnson through midwicket with perfect timing. Knight Riders took 10 off the first over and Pandey said later, after the game, that he had realised then how to go about the challenge.
Knight Riders did not hit a six during the Powerplay, and yet they scored 59. Pandey and Gautam Gambhir placed several drives through the infield but the highlight of their 53-run stand was the running between the wickets, which allowed Kings XI only eight dot balls in the first six overs - the fewest of the season. Gambhir then holed out to Karanveer's first ball off the seventh over; Pandey responded to that setback by driving the next over cover for the innings' first six.
With Yusuf Pathan at the crease, the sixes began to flow. He carved Karanveer over extra cover and long-off off consecutive deliveries, and punished a long-hop and a full toss from L Balaji over the leg-side boundary. In between those sixes, Pandey tore into Awana's shoddy lengths, pulling repeatedly to help take 18 off the 11th over. Patel began to bowl during this acceleration and dried up one end, conceding only five runs in his first two overs.
After adding 71 in 43 balls for the third wicket, Yusuf skied Karanveer to Maxwell at long-on. Pandey countered by clouting the next ball over the same fielder's head. When Ryan ten Doeschate also holed out to long-on, leaving Knight Riders with 32 to get off 21, Pandey once again smashed the next ball for six in that same direction. Only after he fell did the chase get nervy for Knight Riders, but Chawla held it together to thwart a spirited Kings XI campaign.
Unlike the Knight Riders' chase, which motored along at a nearly constant pace, the Kings XI innings was a story of two unbelievably different halves. The first half was a blur of flailing arms and aimless bats as the Knight Riders bowlers - fast and spin - exerted control. Sehwag failed against the extra pace of Umesh Yadav and George Bailey's promotion to No.3 lasted two balls. After six overs, Kings XI had made 32, their lowest Powerplay score of the season. They were only 58 after ten.
Just when it seemed Kings XI had blundered by holding Glenn Maxwell and David Miller back to Nos. 5 and 6, Saha and Vohra orchestrated a jaw-dropping turnaround in tempo. Saha hit 35 runs off the 18 balls he faced from Narine - mostly on the leg side - and took 32 off 13 balls from Chawla. Morkel suffered too, as Vohra's one-handed carve carried over the third-man boundary and Saha hooked for six to take 20 runs off the 15th over. Vohra got to his 50 off 42 balls; Saha needed only 29 and did not let up. They added 129 in 12 overs.
By the time Saha lofted Narine to long-on, where the boundary rider parried the ball for six, to bring up his century off 49 balls, the clamour of wanting to see Maxwell and Miller had long died down. Kings XI's previous best in three innings against Knight Riders this season had been 149. They got to 199 tonight, despite their three overseas guns and Sehwag contributing only nine runs. In their last ten overs, Kings XI had scored 141 runs. Those first ten overs cost them in the end.