Brad Hogg filled the void created by the absence of Sunil Narine to perfection and helped the Kolkata Knight Riders to their fourth win of IPL 8 at Eden Gardens.
The 44-year-old grabbed a four-wicket haul including the key wicket Brendon McCullum to halt the New Zealand captain’s flying start.
Brad Hogg was up to his old tricks at Eden Gardens // BCCI
A late-order assault from Pawan Negi seemed to have lifted the visitors to a more than challenging 9-165, after batting first on a pitch that had the spinners rubbing their hands in glee, But Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell refused to be intimidated by chase and guided their side to a fourth win.
Uthappa slammed his first half-century and Russell chipped in with a quickfire 59, to ensure they didn’t repeat the mistakes from their last loss to the Super Kings.
Russell, who also picked up two wickets, was named the man-of-the-match for his all-round effort.
Young Aussie speedster Pat Cummins removed Dwayne Smith with his first ball, but that didn't stop McCullum batting in the only manner he knows how: aggressively.
He faced 12 deliveries, hit three sixes and three fours before being dismissed for 32.
Cummins, in particular, came under fire from the Black Caps skipper, with 34 runs coming from his first two overs.
Suresh Raina’s dismissal looked like it would give Kolkata some respite, before Faf du Plessis opened his account with a first-ball boundary to quell any such hopes.
Later, captain MS Dhoni would reveal that it was a team tactic to throw conservative cricket out the window and bat aggressively throughout the innings.
With his quicks receiving some punishment, Gambhir opted for spinner Piyush Chawla, only for Du Plessis to slam three boundaries off his first over as Chennai crunched their way to 2-64 after five.
Watch: Hogg classic dumbfounds Silk
But Hogg’s introduction would swing momentum back in Kolkata’s favour.
In a matter of five balls, he had removed both McCullum and du Plessis to have the Knight Riders back on the attack.
McCullum failed to read the quicker one from Hogg and was given out lbw. Du Plessis charged and helped himself to a four but failed to repeat the stroke, mis-reading the spin to be stumped way outside his crease.
Chawla then got one to sneak through captain Dhoni’s defences as half the Chennai side were dismissed for 72.
A healthy run-rate of more than 10 gave the duo of Dwayne Bravo (30) and Ravindra Jadeja (24) the buffer to rebuild, the pair adding 57 for the sixth wicket.
Hogg returned in the 14th over, but by then the pair were settled, and both batsmen picked up a boundary apiece.
Russell broke the partnership with a well-disguised slower ball clipping the top of Bravo’s off-stump.
Hogg then picked up two more wickets, to end with figures of 4-29 from his four overs – his fourth and final scalp a classic flipper that rattled Pawan Negi’s stumps.
Spin proved key for Kolkata’s spinners, with just 61 runs coming off their 10 overs.
Unfortunately for the Super Kings, they were unable to extract the same venom out of the wicket, with Jadeja’s recent bowling issues again brought to the fore yet again,
The India allrounder went for 25 from his two overs, failing to get much turn from his left-arm orthodox deliveries.
In Ashwin’s absence, skipper Dhoni persevered with his quicks on a pitch that was not conducive to seam bowling but Chennai were still the favourites with 165 runs on the board - especially given how well they had defended 134 in their previous match against the same opponents.
Knight Riders opener Gambhir smashed a pair of sixes to open his account before poking a catch to third-man off Mohit Sharma.
Manish Pandey then failed to dispatch a long-hop from Negi and was caught in the deep, while Suryakumar Yadav’s leading edge fell into the lap of the third-man fielder to leave Kolkata a good 109 runs short with just 65 balls remaining.
Russell’s 36-ball 66 against Punjab early in the tournament had already won KKR an IPL fixture, but this was an even better knock given the conditions.
Combining with Uthappa, they were not only difficult to dislodge today but made batting look easy. Uthappa was more orthodox in his shot-making, Russell was the aggressor, and they complemented each other to a tee.
The pair never allowed the required run-rate to escalate. From 10 overs, Kolkata needed 100, from eight they were 80 short, and then needed 63 from six.
Ashish Nehra’s final over, which went for 15, changed the equation in favour of Kolkata.
With both batsmen set, and with Jadeja struggling to extract any movement of note from the pitch, the duo reached their target in the final over.