Rinku blitz in vain as Lucknow edge Kolkata by one run

Kolkata Knight Riders' Rinku Singh looks on as Lucknow Super Giants' Ravi Bishnoi celebrates after winning the Indian Premier League match between Lucknow Super Giants and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens Stadium in Kolkata on 20 May 2023AFP

Lucknow Super Kings survived an unbeaten blitz of 67 by Rinku Singh to edge Kolkata Knight Riders by one run and qualify for the Indian Premier League (IPL) play-offs on Saturday.

Nicholas Pooran’s 58 guided Lucknow to 176-8, a total that was threatened by Rinku, a left-hand batsman, who smashed four sixes in his 33-ball knock but Kolkata ended on 175-7.

Kolkata Knight Riders' Rinku Singh plays a shot

The result ensured a top-two finish for Chennai Super Kings, who hammered hosts Delhi Capitals by 77 runs in their march to the play-offs in the first match of the day.

Four-time champions Chennai, led by M.S. Dhoni, will take on holders Gujarat Titans, who top the 10-team table, in the first qualifier next week.

The winner will head straight to the final in Ahmedabad on 28 May and the loser playing the winner of the “eliminator” between teams three and four in the second qualifier.

Two-time champions Kolkata bowed out of the race for the top four, leaving five-time champions Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore – both the teams play their respective matches on Sunday – and Rajasthan Royals fighting for the remaining spot.

Kolkata began strongly to put Lucknow in trouble at 73-5 before the left-handed Pooran hit back in his 30-ball blitz to guide his team to 176-8 at Eden Gardens.

Lucknow Super Giants' Nicholas Pooran celebrates after scoring a half-century

In reply, England’s Jason Roy, who hit 45, and Venkatesh Iyer gave Kolkata a brisk start in their stand of 61 in 5.5 overs before the Lucknow spinners hit back.

Kolkata lost track after Roy’s wicket but Rinku, who became an IPL sensation with his five sixes off five balls last month, made Kolkata dream again even when they needed 40 off the last two overs.

In the opening match, New Zealand’s Devon Conway (87) and Gaikwad (79) set up Chennai’s win with an opening stand of 141 to steer the team to 223-3.

Skipper David Warner hit a valiant 86 but Chennai kept down Delhi, who are coached by Ricky Ponting, to 146-9 and finish the group stage with eight wins.

The season remains special for Dhoni, who is believed to be playing his last season and has attracted huge crowds wearing the teams’ yellow as a tribute to the legendary cricketer.

Dhoni, 41, though has kept the fans guessing and still not clarified on his swansong.

The wicketkeeper-batsman and former India captain walked in to bat amid thunderous applause at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla ground and stood unbeaten with Ravindra Jadeja, who hit a seven-ball 20.