Ranchi: Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders came close to making it a hat-trick of unlike victories in their attempt to stay alive in IPL 6, but up against the team most likely to be beaten they ended up losing by seven runs. Chasing 171 to keep their flickering hopes of qualifying for the play-offs alive, KKR crashed from the favorable position of 127 for 3 in the 16th over to 163 for 7 with Yusuf Pathan's dismissal being the turning point. Pune Warriors' seven-run win was their first since April 15 - exactly a month - and ended what would have been a record losing streak of ten had KKR won.
Until he bizarrely chose to kick the ball out of Wayne Parnell's way in the 18th over, Yusuf had been batting excellently. Having just struck Parnell for 4, 6 and 4 Yusuf set off for a single; as he nearly collided with the bowler, Yusuf tapped the ball away with his foot. Immediately Pune appealed for obstruction of the field and after several replays the verdict was flashed: out. Yusuf didn't like it one bit, but the evidence was too harsh to ignore. From here, the remaining batsman struggled to find the boundary and KKR's season ended in a daze.
Yusuf will look back at his moment of madness with regret, because his first IPL half-century in three years was a special effort. Parnell had removed Manvinder Bisla (1) and Jacques Kallis (1) with full swinging deliveries to dent KKR's chase early, and when Ishwar Pandey removed Gautam Gambhir (12) with his fourth delivery the hosts had slumped to 39 for 3 inside five overs.
That's when Yusuf and Ryan ten Doeschate combined for an excellent stand. Yusuf flexed his muscles early, bludgeoning Ishwar Pandey for fours in his next over while ten Doeschate followed up two shimmied boundaries by lofting Ali Murtaza over midwicket for six. Yusuf got his first six by dumping Luke Wright over midwicket then trained his sights on Parnell who was lofted over mid-off for consecutive fours. Yusuf's first half-century since 2010 came up in 32 balls.
Needing 49 off the last five overs, KKR lost ten Doeschate for 44 and Manoj Tiwary for 0 in the space of three deliveries. That was followed by Yusuf's dismissal, and Pune never looked back.
Earlier, Robin Uthappa (25) led the way after Gambhir asked Pune to bat, striking two sixes off L Balaji in the third over and with Aaron Finch put on 41 for the opening wicket. Sachitra Senanayake struck the first blow in the sixth over having Uthappa bowled off an inside edge, but that brought to the crease Manish Pandey who played a punchy innings. With Finch striking the ball with a crispness not seen since his first couple of matches this season, Pune moved at roughly seven-and-a-half per over. Finch collected three big sixes en route to 48 off 32 balls, an innings that ended when he was bowled by Balaji.
Yuvraj and Manish Pandey put on 65 in 6.4 overs to get the score to 170. Pandey opened up with three successive boundaries off Kallis in the 15th over, using his feet superbly to make room or walk across the stumps and then wrist the ball away both sides of the pitch. Balaji's last over cost 18 with Manish Pandey raising fifty with a steer to third man and Yuvraj striking six over long-on. Kallis was then taken for 16 in the final over, even as Pandey was run out for 66 and Yuvraj caught at long-on off the final delivery for 30.