KOLKATA - Kolkata Knight Riders stormed into the final of IPL 7 after registering a 28-run win over table-toppers Kings XI Punjab in the first qualifier at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Chasing a modest 164-run target, KXIP lost early momentum in a bid to match the Duckworth/Lewis par score and were restricted to 135 for 8 in twenty overs.

KXIP, who last made to the knockout stage in 2008 when they reached the semis, can still make it to the final if they beat the winners of the eliminator between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians. KXIP's skipper George Bailey's decision to bat second considering the rain threat was clearly a logical decision but KKR's all-round show ensured that the hosts had the last laugh. Fast bowler Umesh Yadav was KKR's destroyer-in-chief as he claimed vital wickets of Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell and Bailey, giving away just 13 runs in his four overs.

In what was billed as KXIP's big-hitting batsmen vs skilful KKR bowling led by Sunil Narine, rain played significant part as teams changed tactics considering the Duckworth-Lewis equation. It was the intermittent rain which forced Gambhir to bring on Narine in the fourth over. KKR read the D/L script better as Kings XI Punjab lost Manan Vohra and Maxwell as the batsmen were trying to catch up with the par score. KKR timed their strategic time out to perfection as they took it right after Maxwell's dismissal with KXIP at 55 for 3 in 7.5 overs, the par score being 66 at that stage.

In walked David Miller with a big task at his hand. The Saha-Miller partnership which lasted for 25 balls added same number of runs to the team's total until Morne Morkel struck for Kolkata. Morkel got rid of the dangerous-looking Saha (35 off 31) to tilt the game in favour of KKR. Legspinner Piyush Chawla then added to KXIP's problems as Miller saw his stumps rattled. A tossed delivery from Chawla turned sharply and the South African batsman had no clue about it as KXIP were reduced to 82 for 5.

The task was not impossible for KXIP but with the Mexican wave all around the stadium right behind the hosts, it became tough for the visitors. The pressure of the big game soon claimed another victim as Akshar Patel was run out courtesy a direct through from Chawla.

Earlier, put in to bat, Kolkata Knight Riders managed to score 163 for 8 in their stipulated twenty overs.

From calling it right at the toss till the end of the KKR innings, Bailey did most things right and his team managed to keep hosts KKR's batsmen in check with regular wickets but it eventually turned out a good toss to loose for Gambhir. Bailey manoeuvred his resources well after Mitchell Johnson provided the first breakthrough by getting rid of Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir managed just one run off the three balls he faced and paid the price for going for an audacious pull too early in the innings. Gambhir's wicket did not deter the other opener Robin Uthappa.

Orange Cap holder Uthappa, who had scores of 47, 65, 47, 46, 80, 40, 67, 83* and 41 before coming into this game, scored a 30-ball 42 before being outfoxed by left-arm spinner Akshar Patel. Patel was rewarded for keeping it simple again when he managed to dislodge Manish Pandey two balls later. With 67 for 3 in the 10th over of the innings, the momentum had clearly swung in favour of KXIP.

Pandey's wicket saw allrounders Yusuf Pathan and Shakib-al-Hasan at the crease. The duo added 41 runs in a partnership that lasted 5.3 over. Legspinner Karanveer Singh was rewarded for his loop as he dismissed Shakib and Pathan in successive deliveries, putting KXIP in the driver's seat. Akshar was the pick of KXIP's bowlers. Patel also bowled a maiden over in his spell, a rarity in the IPL, and gave away just 11 runs to take two crucial wickets.

All this while, Bailey kept rotating his bowlers pretty well until rain stopped play at the Eden Gardens in the 16th over with KKR at 113 for 5. KXIP's bowlers came in for some stick when play resumed. Karanveer was carted around 17 runs in the eighteenth over by Ryan-ten-Doeschate and Surya Kumar Yadav. However, Karanveer had the last laugh when he dislodged Yadav after he scored a 14-ball 20. KKR, who replaced Vinay Kumar with legspinner Piyush Chawla for the match, were rewarded for reading the conditions well.

Scoreboard

KOLKATA:

R Uthappa c Miller b Patel    42

G Gambhir c Bailey b Johnson    1

M Pandey b Patel    21

Shakib Al Hasan c Miller b Karanveer    18

Y Pathan c Miller b Karanveer    20

R ten Doeschate c Vohra b Johnson    17

S Yadav b Karanveer    20

P Chawla not out    17

S Narine run out    0

M Morkel not out    0

EXTRAS: (lb4, w3)    7

TOTAL: (8 wkts; 20 overs)    163

FOW: 1-2, 2-67, 3-67, 4-108, 5-108, 6-145, 7-147, 8-159

BOWLING: P Awana 4-0-33-0, M Johnson 4-0-31-2, A Patel 4-1-11-2, R Dhawan 4-0-44-0, Karanveer Singh 4-0-40-3

PUNJAB:

V Sehwag c Shakib b U Yadav    2

M Vohra c U Yadav b Morkel    26

W Saha c U Yadav b Morkel    35

G Maxwell lbw b UT Yadav     6

D Miller b Chawla    8

A Patel run out    2

GJ Bailey c Pandey b U Yadav    26

R Dhawan st Uthappa b Shakib    14

M Johnson not out    10

Karanveer Singh not out    1

EXTRAS: (lb3, w2)    5

TOTAL: (8 wkts; 20 overs)    135

FOW: 1-5, 2-45, 3-55, 4-80, 5-82, 6-87, 7-117, 8-134

BOWLING: M Morkel 4-0-23-2, U Yadav 4-0-13-3, S Narine 4-0-30-0, Shakib Al Hasan 4-0-43-1, P Chawla 4-0-23-1

TOSS: Punjab

MAN OF MATCH: U Yadav (Kolkata)

UMPIRES: N Llong (Eng), S Ravi

TV UMPIRE: C Shamshuddin

MATCH REFEREE: R Mahanama (SL)