Saurabh Das/Associated Press
Kolkata Knight Riders (146/3) bt. Sunrisers Hyderabad (142/8) by seven wickets
Knight Riders needed a strong final over from Ryan ten Doeschate (25 runs off 15 balls) to record a close win over Sunrisers, keeping their two-point lead over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the race for fourth intact.
Hyderabad chose to bat first and ran into a strong group of bowlers, aided greatly by the slow and worn down pitch. Aaron Finch, Darren Sammy and Dale Steyn would all bat single-digit runs, as Sunil Narine (four overs, 21 runs, one wicket) and Umesh Yadav (four overs, 26 runs, three wickets) did an excellent job containing one of the IPL's most explosive groups of batsmen.
Chasing 143, Kolkata were forced to continue without Gautam Gambhir as their star batsman was dismissed after just 10 balls, scoring six runs. The Knight Riders played with patience and fell behind the pace early, before a surge from Yusuf Pathan (39 off 82) and Manish Pandey (35 of 32) in the middle overs gave Ten Doeschate a chance to win it late.
A six and a two-run hit were followed by a boundary, giving Kolkata a very important win.
Gambhir seemed very upset after his early dismissal, and he explained ESPN Cricinfo why while also crediting his spin bowlers for handling the difficult wicket well:
I would not have reacted that way had I nicked it. Just happened in the heat of the moment. It was a big game for us. Happy with the way the rest of the guys batted. Want to give credit to the bowlers on such a wicket. Looking at the wicket, playing three spinners, we were looking at chasing 160-odd. The three spinners bowled brilliantly to restrict them.
Kolkata's bowling really made the difference in this match, and as we edge closer to the play-offs and the pitches around the IPL become slower and slower, they have to like their chances going forward.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (142/5) bt. Chennai Super Kings (138/4) by five wickets
Bangalore made sure they remained right on the heels of Kolkata, upsetting Super Kings on the very last ball. Abu Nechim came in he would have to make the most out of the only delivery he would face all day, and David Hussey would give up four, losing in his very first IPL7 start.
Royal Challengers did a remarkable job handling two of the IPL's most dangerous batsmen, holding Dwayne Smith to just nine off 15 and dismissing Brendon McCullum after 13 balls, giving the New Zealand captain just 19 runs.
Most of Chennai's production would come from Sunesh Raina, scoring 62 runs off 48 balls not out. Abu Nechim put up a bowling clinic with just 18 runs surrendered in four overs, while his teammate Mitchell Starc wasn't too far behind with 23 in four.
With a target of 139, Chris Gayle went to work to the tune of 46 off 50 as Chennai's bowlers focussed on limiting the run count as opposed to looking for wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin (four overs, 16 runs) and Raina (four overs, 20 runs) seemed to be winning the battle in the middle overs, as the production of Bangalore's batsmen started to grind to a halt.
AB de Villiers kick-started his team back into action, however, scoring 28 off 14 and seemingly bringing his teammates back to life. Yuvraj Singh laid the late groundwork for Nechim with 13 off nine not out, setting up a big final over.
For some reason Hussey was chosen as the man to deliver the win, despite playing in his very first IPL 7 match. While the Australian veteran certainly didn't play bad, he failed to keep his delivery under control in the final over, leading to the winning shot from Nechim.
Bangalore will feel good about their bowling after containing McCullum and Smith, and their bowlers will go head-to-head with Kolkata on Tuesday in a match that will have tremendous play-off implications.
Kolkata have dominated opponents for much of this year's tournament and should feel confident their top two batsmen won't be shut out like that again. Better management late in the match and a different bowler stepping up for the final over could have made all the difference on Sunday, ad those are mistakes the team won't be making twice.