The Lucknow Super Giants secured their spot in the playoff positions for the second season in a row with their nail-biting victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday night at the Eden Gardens. A terrific half-century from Nicholas Pooran and a collective bowling effort from LSG helped Krunal Pandya’s side withstand another Rinku Singh masterclass to claim their third win in a row to end the group stages and edge out KKR with a thrilling one-run victory.
Lucknow’s win takes them to third in the table with 17 points from 14 matches, sealing their spot in Wednesday’s Eliminator against the Mumbai Indians in Chennai.
The Super Giants got off to a sedate start in their do-or-die game at the Eden Gardens, losing opener Karan Sharma for 3. Prerak Mankad managed to find some boundaries to end the powerplay, but Vaibhav Arora hit back in the seventh over, removing the number three and Marcus Stoinis in the same over to leave LSG reeling at 55 for 3.
The Super Giants slipped further after quick strikes from Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy removed left-handers Krunal Pandya and Quinton de Kock, reducing the visitors to 73 for 5 at the halfway stage.
However, Nicholas Pooran powered Lucknow’s recovery in the back half of the innings, with the left-hander launching a swift counter-attack to put the pressure back on KKR. The West Indian laced Varun Chakravarthy for two fours off his first two deliveries and carted the spinner for a couple of monster sixes down the ground, racing away to 23 off 10 balls. Pooran continued his charge into the death overs, taking on Suyash Sharma and Shardul Thakur to bring up his half-century and help LSG post a defendable score of 176.
KKR stormed out of the blocks in the chase as openers Jason Roy and Venkatesh Iyer smashed 30 runs off the first two overs. The Englishman also went after the Lucknow finger-spinners – Krunal Pandya and Krishnappa Gowtham – to put the hosts in a strong position at 78 for 1 after eight. However, the Knight Riders lost their way through the middle as Rana and Roy departed in successive overs, while Rahmanullah Gurbaz struggled his way to 10 off 15 before falling to Yash Thakur.
To make matters worse, Ravi Bishnoi cleaned up Andre Russell with 57 needed off 27 deliveries, leaving Rinku Singh as KKR’s only hope at the crease. The pocket dynamo nearly pulled off another miracle, smashing Naveen-ul-Haq for 20 runs in the penultimate over, but was left with too much to do on his own.
The southpaw did smash a six with 18 needed off three balls but could only manage a four off the next delivery, condemning KKR to a narrow defeat to end their IPL 2023 campaign.