Kolkata Knight Riders 137 for 5 (Kallis 31, Bisla 29) beat Rajasthan Royals 131 for 5 (Shah 31, Dravid 28, Shakib 3-17) by five wickets
Shakib Al Hasan had sat out Kolkata Knight Riders' first two matches, much to the disappointment of his fans in Bangladesh, but on a slow and turning Eden Gardens pitch he responded with a match-winning performance. He struck three crucial, timely blows with the ball, squeezing out whatever momentum Rajasthan Royals had managed to build, and then smashed a couple of boundaries to prevent a tricky chase from getting trickier in the closing stages.
It was Shakib's haul of 3 for 17 that proved decisive in the end. He dismissed the Royals openers after their partnership had started to gather pace; he came back to break another substantial stand, between Shreevats Goswami and Owais Shah, that could have hurt Knight Riders. Royals, though, somehow adapted to the slowness of the pitch, and took 15 runs off the last over to set Knight Riders a challenging target.
Jacques Kallis and Manvinder Bisla ensured Knight Riders did not lose wickets as they kept up with the modest asking-rate, and Shakib and Manoj Tiwary produced the few big strokes needed towards the end.
Royals had started well, with Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane putting on 45 in six overs. Dravid got away a few boundaries with uncharacteristic charges down the track against the medium-pacers while Rahane cover-drove and swept offspinner Sunil Narine for consecutive boundaries.
Shakib, though, had an immediate impact. Rahane tried to push Shakib's first delivery on the off side, but it turned sharply to take the outside edge to the wicketkeeper. The second ball of Shakib's second over was tossed up invitingly. Dravid went after it, and found extra cover.
In between those two dismissals Ashok Menaria, batting ahead of Brad Hodge and Owais Shah, ran himself out after a couple of let-offs.
Royals had slipped from 45 for no loss to 49 for 3 but Shah and Goswami were to double that score with safe accumulation. The duo threatened more damage after taking 16 off the 16th over, bowled by Rajat Bhatia.
Enter Shakib in the 17th over. Shah drilled him down the ground for four but Goswami mishit a sweep to midwicket. Narine bowled an excellent penultimate over, getting a clueless Shah stumped off a flicked delivery that spun away from the right-hander. Johan Botha was rendered as clueless as Shah for the rest of the over, which went for just three.
Royals managed to swing L Balaji for a couple of boundaries in the last over to give their attack just about enough to defend on a helpful pitch. Though Gautam Gambhir was run out early, Kallis and Bisla were in control as they chipped away at the target. The medium-pacers were targeted, as was left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan. Johan Botha and Brad Hogg were negotiated without needless bravado.
The highest the asking-rate was allowed to go was eight an over after the 17th. When it reached that level, Knight Riders had Shakib, who delivered. Again.