Pandey, Yusuf give KKR top position after tense chase
Kolkata Knight Riders 169 for 6 (Pandey 69*, Yusuf 59, Zaheer 2-28) beat Delhi Daredevils 168 for 7 (Samson 39, Pant 38, Coulter-Nile 3-22) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kolkata Knight Riders displayed the batting depth that has made them one of the most consistent sides in the IPL, pulling off the highest successful IPL chase for a side losing three wickets in the first three overs. Yusuf Pathan and Manish Pandey rescued them from 21 for 3 with the first century fourth-wicket partnership in the IPL for a team three down for under 25.
The end didn't come without hiccups, though: after Yusuf fell for 59 off 39, leaving Knight Riders 38 to get off 31, Daredevils scrambled hard and brought it down to eight required off three balls, which Pandey managed with one ball to go. That this came on a pitch markedly better for hitting the new ball, and against arguably the best bowling unit of this IPL so far, made it even more special.
Daredevils, the slowest side in the middle overs - seven to 15 - were once again left to rue that slowdown. A blinder from Rishabh Pant - 38 off 16 - gave them a finishing kick, but that only took them to a fighting total.
The Samson slowdown
Sanju Samson is the only man with a century this IPL. Even in that innings, he went through a curious pattern: a flying start of 35 off 19, then only 13 off the next 19, and then the final kick. Once again, the moment spin came on, Samson went from 27 off 12 to just 12 off the next 13 balls. The problem with such slowdowns is, you put yourself under pressure to make up later in the innings, and not always do you get that chance. Here he edged Umesh Yadav, and 36 for 0 in three overs had now become 63 for 2 in 7.5 overs.
The Nair slowdown
Ever since his Test triple-century against England in December, Nair is yet to put together an innings of 30 in any format of official cricket. More than the lack of runs, though, it was his sub-100 strike rate that hurt Daredevils. Even though Shreyas Iyer batted fluently at the other end, the runs just didn't come fast enough for the hosts. Iyer was run out trying to manufacture a second and keep the strike, and Nair just had to hit out and expose his stumps for a 27-ball 21. Daredevils 110 for 4 in 15, having scored just 57 in the last nine, lower than their usual middle-overs rate of 7.22 an over.
Pant is not just knocking at the door for the Champions Trophy selection. He is thumping at it with a tree trunk. In one of the rare bowling errors from Knight Riders, Umesh Yadav bowled a whole over - 17th - of regulation pace to Pant. The challenger to MS Dhoni's slot in India's limited-overs sides then peppered all boundaries for 6, 4, 6, 6, 4 to consign Umesh to his worst IPL over.
Sunil Narine and Nathan Coulter-Nile, though, followed up with exceptional overs. Narine, who bowled two overs inside the Powerplay for just eight runs, took out Angelo Mathews in the 18th to end up with figures of 4-0-20-1. In the 19th, Coulter-Nile did the opposite of Umesh - bowling slow and away from the batsmen as opposed to fast and within their reach - and took out Pant, and missed out on Chris Morris twice with catches going down. Damage control, though, had been done.
With most runs expected off the new ball, the first six overs were going to be electric. This was a contest between the fastest batting unit inside Powerplay and the bowling side with the best economy and average inside Powerplays. With the canny Zaheer Khan running his fingers over the seam of the new ball, Knight Riders lost a wicket each in the first three, including that of surprise opener Colin de Grandhomme.
It was all Yusuf and Pandey now. Yusuf bolted first, taking on Morris and Pat Cummins, who provided him regulation pace. Then the two targeted Amit Mishra, picked as the only spinner ahead of Shahbaz Nadeem, who has gone at 4.9 an over this IPL. They kept finding the boundary, never letting the asking rate go beyond nine.
The closing gambit
Yusuf, though, fell with the job unfinished. With 34 required to score in the last five, Daredevils managed overs of six, six, six and seven. This was Cummins and Morris with lessons learnt from their earlier mistakes, bowling slower ones repeatedly, one of them getting Suryakumar Yadav caught at mid-off. The last ball of the 19th over was bowled at regulation pace, but it was a yorker, which meant Pandey was off strike at the start of the last over.
Now Zaheer took the gamble. Eight to defend in the last over is not a lot, and with Chris Woakes on strike, Zaheer went to Mishra. Mishra responded beautifully with a flighted wrong'un and legbreak first up. The legbreak got Woakes stumped. Now there was big tension in the dugout. Narine walked out and calmly took a single. It was now down to Pandey to see through what he had started.
Having bowled three flighted deliveries so far, Mishra now fired one in at the sight of a specialist batsman. Pandey was expecting it. He went deep in his crease, and drilled it over long-on. Perhaps Mishra would have been better off keeping it slow because it had become really hard to generate power into shots by now. He didn't, and Pandey was there to cash in.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo