Kolkata Knight Riders
147-8 (Ganguly 32, Das 31, Sohail Tanvir 3-26) v
150-4 (Pathan 48no, Mohammad Kaif 34no)
Rajasthan Royals won by six wickets
By Pierce Morley-Barnes
A blistering innings of 48 not out from just 18 balls from Yusuf Pathan helped the Rajasthan Royals beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by six wickets in game 44 of the Indian Premier League in Kolkata, confirming their place in the semi-finals.
Chasing 148 to win after the Knight Riders managed 147 for eight, Pathan's innings helped his side recover from 69 for four to win in the 17th over of the match.
Pathan spelled it out simply afterwards. "I thought I had to to bat very well for my team and that is what I did," he explained.
"I had to play my natural game and at the same time put the bad balls away," which is exactly what he did, although a fair share of good deliveries were also punished.
Earlier, the Kolkata Knight Riders struggled to get bat on ball and in the process crept along to 147 for eight after the Rajasthan Royals applied significant pressure from the off having put the Kolkata Knight Riders into bat after winning the toss.
Munaf Patel and Sohail Tanvir bowled tidily at the start as the Knight Riders although Salman Butt and Saurav Ganguly looked in good form as they hit 24 and 32 respectively before giving their wickets away.
Once again, Shane Warne�s captaincy was superb as he cleverly rotated his bowlers well, who all had a spring in their step as their side have been in brilliant form during the IPL. The pick of the Royals bowlers were Munaf Patel who took two for 22 and Sohail Tanvir who took three for 26.
There was a late flurry of runs for the Knight Riders as home grown batsman Debabrata Das (31), Laxmi Shukla (15) smashed their side back into the game as they recovered from their early blows to post a competitive score.
It looked like a close match was in store when the Knight Riders removed Swapnil Asnodkar (five) and pinch-hitter Sohail Tanvir (13) cheaply. When Graeme Smith, who hit a fluent 24, was unluckily given out caught behind, the Knight Riders were in the game.
However, Shane Watson and Mohammad Kaif came together and began to frustrate the home team but home captain Saurav Ganguly had Watson bowled for 19 and it needed Kaif and Pathan to put together a crucial partnership.
They formed the perfect pair, Pathan brutally attacking the bowling, hitting Ganguly for two huge sixes, and Kaif working the ball around although he showed his attacking capabilities with three boundaries off of Ashok Dinda.
Aside from Umar Gul, who took two wickets in an over to get rid of Tanvir and Smith, the Knight Riders had no answer, Pathan winning the match with a six off of Umar Gul with 21 balls to spare.
The result virtually ends early pacesetters the Knight Riders' chances of a semi-final place.
"We haven't played well right throughout the tournament," a clearly disappointed Ganguly conceded. "We have had stops and starts but the better side won."
"It is going to be tough but we have two games left and we will try and win them and then see what happens," the dejected all-rounder added.
The Rajasthan Royals were rank outsiders before the tournament began, but as Watson said after the game, everything has worked out beautifully for them.
"We are playing very good cricket," he said. "It was great that everyone was able to contribute today. Yusuf Pathan and Mohammed Kaif batted absolutely beautifully to get us home so as well as our bowling effort we are playing well as a team and everything is clicking."
His compatriot Warne agreed, adding that, "We have just got a really good group together, we are all the same we treat everyone the same and we are all in it together."
He also gave an insight into how he is keeping his side on top of their game. "We train hard at times and other times we just relax and it is all about enjoyment, keeping fresh, the boys are playing well they have just got to keep it up now for the business end of the tournament."
� Cricket World 2008