Sports is all about grabbing chances and making it count when it matters the most.
Promoted in the batting order, Rahul Tripathi utilised his golden opportunity with both the hands by slamming a career-best 81 to steer Kolkata Knight Riders to a thrilling ten-run victory against Chennai Super Kings in the Dream11 Indian Premier League at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Tripathi smashed 81 off just 51 balls to help Kolkata Knight Riders put up a fighting total of 157 as unsettled Kolkata Knight Riders looked to bounce back against revived Chennai Super Kings.
The two-time IPL champions did bounce back quite strongly and restricted the formidable CSK to 147 for 5 in 20 overs to notch up their third win of the season.
Earlier opening the innings, Tripathi cracked eight fours and three sixes to justify his promotion. The tall right-handed batsman provided a decent start and added 37 runs for the first wicket with in-form Shubman Gill (11: 12 balls, 1×4) after their captain Dinesh Karthik opted to bat.
Ranchi-born Tripathi, who plays domestic cricket for Maharashtra, was also involved in a fruitful alliance with Sunil Narine (17: 9 balls, 1×4, 1×6), who batted at No. 4 position instead of opening the innings as pinch-hitter.
Tripathi, who earlier represented Rising Pune Supergiants and Rajasthan Royals, displayed some brilliant shots particularly on the on-side to complete his maiden half-century in this IPL season.
However, besides Tripathi and to certain extent Narine and Pat Cummins, rest of the KKR batsmen struggled against a disciplined bowling effort from Chennai Super Kings bowlers.
At one stage when Tripathi was going great guns, the two-time champions KKR looked like reaching a total of 180 plus but they faltered in the death overs.
West Indies’ star all-rounder Andre Russell, who has been a top-performer this season for KKR, failed to deliver with the ball on Wednesday.
In the last five overs, KKR managed to score only 39 runs and lost 6 wickets. Pat Cummins played a couple of big shots and remained unbeaten on 17 which came off just nine balls.
Dwayne Bravo was the pick of the CSK bowlers with 3-37. Leg-spinner Karn Sharma, who replaced veteran Piyush Chawla in this game, returned with 2 for 25. Medium-pacers, Sam Curran and Shardul Thakur also scalped a couple of wickets each.
Chasing a challenging target of 158, CSK were provided a superb start once again by Shane Watson (50: 40 balls, 6×4, 1×6) and Faf du Plessis (17: 10 balls, 3×4).
The experienced opening pair, who set a record-breaking opening wicket partnership of unbeaten 181 runs in the previous match against the Kings XI Punjab, looked like continuing from where they had left in the last outing. They added 30 in just 3.4 overs before du Plessis was caught at the wicket by Dinesh Karthik off young seamer Shivam Mavi.
Ambati Rayudu then joined Watson and maintained the momentum with steady flow of runs. At one stage when CSK were 99 for 1 at the end of 12 overs, it looked as if they would romp home quite easily.
However, the fall of Rayudu (30: 27 balls, 3×4) triggered the collapse. Soon after, Watson was also departed as his nemesis Sunil Narine caught him in front of the wickets.
MS Dhoni promoted himself up in the batting order but the move backfired completely as he struggled to get going. His scratchy 11 off 12 balls added more pressure on the lower-order batsmen as they caved in meekly.
The 17th over bowled by Andre Russel proved a game changer as the big speedster conceded just three runs.
With 36 from the last two overs and 26 from the final over, KKR bowlers rose to the occasion and bowled their side to a memorable ten-run win.
Although Ravindra Jadeja (21 not out off 8 balls) tried to pull off a difficult win, he just could not get enough strike at the end.
With this fantastic win, KKR jumped to the third spot in the points table with six points to their credit from five matches.
On the other hand, CSK suffered their fourth defeat and are on the fifth spot with four points from six matches. It will be a difficult path from now on for last year’s runners-up to clinch a place in the last four for play-offs.
On Thursday, Sunrisers Hyderabad will take on Kings XI Punjab at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
While 2016 champions SRH have four points from five matches, KXIP are at the bottom with just a couple of points from the same number of matches.
Kolkata Knight Riders 167 all out in 20 overs (Rahul Tripathi 81, Pat Cummins 17 not out, Sunil Narine 17, Dinesh Karthik 12, Shubman Gill 11; Dwayne Bravo 3-37, Karn Sharma 2-25, Sam Curran 2-26, Shardul Thakur 2-28) beat Chennai Super Kings 157 for 5 in 20 overs (Shane Watson 50, Ambati Rayudu 30, Ravindra Jadeja 21 not out, Faf du Plessis 17, Sam Curran 17, MS Dhoni 11, Kedar Jadhav 7 not out; Andre Russel 1-18, Kamlesh Nagarkoti 1-21, Varun Chakravarthy 1-28, Sunil Narine 1-31, Shivam Mavi 1-32) by 10 runs.
Man-of-the-match: Rahul Tripathi (KKR).