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Sunil Narine and Prasidh Krishna displayed ice-cool temperament at the death as Kolkata pulled off a stunning two-run victory over a self-destructive Punjab in an IPL game at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Dinesh Karthik's side pulled off yet another Houdini Act after they were seemingly down and out when Punjab's opening pair KL Rahul (74) and Mayank Agarwal (56) had put on 115 runs in 14.2 overs while chasing 165, it looked like it would be only a matter of time when Punjab would wrap up the match and snap their four-match losing streak. But in the end, the 2014 finalists made a mess towards the end of their run chase to suffer their sixth defeat from seven matches and fifth on the trot while Kolkata notched up their fourth win in six matches. Punjab will now need a mathematical miracle to qualify.
The Mohali-based outfit needed 22 from the final three overs but the match turned on its head in the 18th over. Nicholas Pooran (16) gifted his wicket in the over bowled by Narine who conceded just two runs. Needing 20 runs in the last two overs, Punjab lost two wickets in the space of three balls, including that of Rahul, in the penultimate over bowled by pacer Prasidh Krishna. KL Rahul & Co. needed 14 runs from the last over and six of the final delivery to take the match to Super Over but Glenn Maxwell could only score a boundary for Punjab to lose the match by two runs.
Earlier, Rahul and Agarwal, the top two run-getters in this IPL, avoided taking undue risk while getting the odd boundaries to keep the asking rate under control. They were 47 for no loss after powerplay with Pat Cummins bowling three of the first six overs. Rahul was dropped by Andre Russell off the bowling of Prasidh Krishna in the second over when he was on two. Russell hurt himself while fielding after a few overs but returned in the 11th over only to leave the field again in the 13th over.
Punjab were 76 for no loss at the halfway mark and the duo kept on getting the ones and twos without much trouble with the two-time champions suddenly finding a death over bowler less without Russell. The former champions finally got the breakthrough with Agarwal holing out to Shubman Gill in the 15th over but the new man in Pooran went for an unnecessary shot that led to his and Punjab's downfall.
Opting to bat, a counter-attacking 58 off just 29 balls by skipper Dinesh Karthik and opener Shubman Gill's 57-run knock helped Kolkata post 164 for 6. Karthik's decision to bat first seemed to be backfiring as Kolkata were struggling at 63 for 3 in the 11th over but he changed the complexion of the innings with a magnificent knock which included eight fours and two sixes.
The Kolkata captain, who was run out in the last ball of the innings, had some exquisite shots and his placements were brilliant, besides his top-class running between the wicket. His fifty came off just 22 balls. Young opener Gill contributed a 47-ball 57 which had five fours. The 82-run stand between Karthik and Gill for the fourth wicket was the cornerstone of the Kolkata innings on a slow and difficult pitch.
The former champions, however, made a disastrous start, losing two wickets for just 25 runs in the powerplay. Rahul Tripathi's (4) middle stump was sent cartwheeling by Mohammed Shami in the third over while Gill was guilty in the run-out of Nitish Rana (2) in a horrible mix up.
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