Durban: Gautam Gambhir made an unbeaten half century to lead Delhi Daredevils to an easy nine-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League here on Tuesday.
Gambhir (71 not out), who was standing for Virender Sehwag for the second consecutive match, was dropped twice - on 21 and 65 - and he ensured that Kolkata paid dearly for the blunders by hitting his first half century this season and sixth IPL fifty.
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David Warner (36) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (42 not out) were the other notable contributors as Delhi chase down the target of 155 with six balls to spare at the Kingsmead.
Gambhir, who hit seven fours in his 57-ball innings hit the winning runs, a four to take his team to 157 for one.
Earlier, electing to bat Kolkata posted 154 for three, their highest score so far in the tournament, thanks mainly to Morne van Wyk’s 48-ball 74.
With the win, their fifth from seven matches, Delhi jumped to top of table with 10 points, one point ahead of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, but one game lesser than both.
For Kolkata, the defeat, their seventh from nine matches and fifth on the trot, meant they are almost out of semifinal contention as they are languishing at the bottom of eight-team table at three points.
Man-of-the-match Gambhir played anchor and shunned his usual aggressiveness but at the same time effective for the situation.
He was at first content with giving more strike to his aggressive opening partner Warner and did the same in company of Dilshan later on.
The Delhi batsmen also capitalized on shoddy fielding of Kolkata and Dilshan was dropped while on 24 in the 16th over.
Gambhir and Warner began the run chase on a cautious note and punished Ishant Sharma for 17 runs in the third over.
Warner launched against Ashok Dinda for a six in the fourth over and another maximum result from Moises Henriques the next over to take Delhi to 49 at the end of fifth over.
Kolkata captain McCullum had an embarrassing moment in the seventh over when he could not hold on to an easy chance off Ajit Agarkar to a catch-out chance of Gambhir when the Delhi captain was on 21.
Next ball, Warner was out with Moises Henriques taking a well-judged catch. The Australian’s 23-ball 36 included five fours and a six.
As if angry for dismissing Warner, next man in Dilshan punished Agarkar with two consecutive fours in the ninth over which yielded 11 runs.
Delhi needed less than eight runs an over from the last 10 overs but Gambhir and Dilshan ran for one and twos with occasional boundary to raise 100 in the 14th over.
But once the target was near, Dilshan accelerated the gear and he took Kolkata bowlers apart picking out Agarkar and Ishant for special treatment to reach his 40s.
Agarkar was the lone successful bowler for Kolkata with figures of 1/24 from three overs.
Earlier, van Wyk’s breezy half century helped Kolkata post a competitive 154 for 3. The South African was cautious initially but opened up later to contribute almost half of his team’s total, smashing 11 fours in his 48-ball innings.
Kolkata captain McCullum (35) was in an aggressive mood trying to shrug off his poor form and whipped Dirk Nannes for two sixes and a four in the third over which yielded 21 runs.
He added another six off Pradeep Sangwan in the fifth over to keep Kolkata run rate at nearly five runs an over by the end of that over even as the Delhi bowlers were getting swing and bounce initially at the Kingsmead.
Just as he looked like making a huge impact in the match, McCullum was out for 35 holing out to Ashish Nehra near mid-wicket boundary off Sangwan.
The Kolkata captain faced 29 balls and hit one four and three sixes in his 29-ball innings and before he was out he and Wyk had given the best opening stand for their side in the IPL this season.
McCullum’s partner van Wyk greeted Amit Mishra with two fours, including a beautiful cut shot, but shunned extravagant shots after his skipper was back at the dressing room.
Sangwan and Mishra were able to apply brakes and Kolkata were 69 for one at the halfway mark and 103 for two at the end of 15th over.
One-down Brad Hodge (10) could not contribute and became Sangwan’s second victim in the 13th over.
But 17 runs off Nannes in the 17th over and a couple of fours and a six by Moises Henriques (30) saw Kolkata crossing the 150-mark.
Wyk, who reached his fifty in the 15th over after facing 32 balls, survived a catch out chance by Sangwan off Rajat Bhatia when on 66. He was out in the last over losing his timber to Ashish Nehra.
For Delhi, Sangwan was the most successful bowler with 2/29 from his four overs while Nehra was also impressive with his 1/23. Nannes was taken to task by Kolkata batsmen belting 49 runs from his four overs without any success.