Robin Uthappa was elegance personified during his 52-ball 80 as he powered Kolkata Knight Riders to a convincing six-wicket win over Mumbai Indians in their Indian Premier League match in Cuttack on Wednesday.
Uthappa struck nine fours and three sixes after a disciplined KKR attack restricted Mumbai Indians to 141 for five on a pitch that was not the best for batting. Battling woeful form, Yusuf Pathan remained unbeaten on 20 and hit the winning boundary.
The Knight Riders were off to a brisk start, especially with Uthappa looking in good nick, and he hit a flurry of boundaries to take his side past the 50-run mark in the seventh over.
But just after Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir (14) recorded their fourth consecutive half-century partnership, the KKR skipper inside-edged a Harbhajan Singh onto his stumps.
Thanks to the enterprise displayed by Uthappa – who lofted Pragyan Ojha over long on for a six besides finding the fence three times on either side of the fifth over – the Knight Riders were very much in the game.
Ojha was cut behind point before Uthappa swept Harbhajan for another four.
KKR were 68 for one midway into their innings and needed 74 runs from 60 balls, the number of wickets remaining giving the eastern side a clear edge.
An outside edge fetched Uthappa a four before the batsman brought up yet another half-century with a single to deep cover.
Manish Pandey played the second fiddle as Uthappa sliced Jasprit Bumrah's low full toss past point for another boundary.
Coming into this match with two fifties and three 40-plus knocks, Uthappa never looked in trouble and went about the task in a very calculated manner.
Harbhajan's dismissal of Pandey through another inside-edge did not bother Uthappa at all as the batsman effortlessly lofted Simmons for two sixes to bring the equation well under control after KKR needed 42 in the last five overs.
However, Uthappa could not finish the game for KKR with Simons knocking over his middle stump, bringing to an end an elegant knock.
Pace spearhead Lasith Malinga did get the wicket of Shakib Al Hasan but that was too little for Mumbai to stage a fightback.
Earlier, skipper Rohit Sharma struck a half-century and guided Mumbai Indians to a modest total.
In his 45-ball 51-run knock, Rohit struck two sixes and four boundaries to prop his team up after it struggled to force the pace for a major part of the innings at the Barabati Stadium.
Sunil Narine bowled a very economical final over, conceding just four runs besides dismissing Rohit.
Sent into bat, Mumbai Indians lost their openers within the first five overs, with Morne Morkel and Shakib Al Hasan accounting for Chidhambaram Gautam and Lendl Simmons respectively.
Struggling against the pace of Morkel, Gautam charged down the track against the lanky pacer but failed to clear cover where Suryakumar Yadav took a good catch.
Coming in for Jacques Kallis to strengthened the spin department, Shakib bowled an arm-ball that kept low and disturbed Simmons' leg stump as the batsman went for a heave. The wicket ensured the Bangladesh left-arm spinner made up for a drop catch in the previous over.
After reaching 33 off 27 balls, Rayudu holed out at long-on while trying to force the pace, the successful bowler being Piyush Chawla. He hit 3 fours and a six.
It could have become 70 for four but for Yusuf Pathan's failure to hold on to a sitter at long-on, giving Rohit a life and Morkel a reason to express anguish. To end the over, Rohit got a boundary off a top edge.
Corey Anderson broke the shackles with a six and a four off Chawla in the 14th over, the maximum going long and high over the sight screen. It was a productive over for MI as they picked 17 runs off it.
Sunil Narine came back to bowl a tight over and peg Mumbai back once again. At the end of the 15th over, Mumbai were struggling to step on the gas at 99 for three.
But Rohit soon freed his arms to loft Morkel over long off for a six. Another length ball followed and Rohit effortlessly launched the 146-kmph delivery over extra cover.
Having taken a beating, Morkel had something to cheer about as he had Anderson caught at midwicket in what was a soft dismissal.
Image: Robin Uthappa