Kolkata: Yusuf Pathan and Mohammad Kaif forged an unfinished 81-run partnership as Rajasthan Royals confirmed their semi-final berth with an easy six-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
Pathan (48 not out off 18 balls) and Kaif (34 not out off 31 balls) took the game away from the Knight Riders with their rollicking 42-ball stand after the hosts posted a modest 147 for eight in the face of a disciplined bowling performance from the league leaders.
Pathan, whose hurricane knock was studded with five fours and three sixes, ended the game in style with a boundary off pacer Umar Gul as the Royals reached 150 for four with 21 balls still remaining.
The Royals, now on 18 points from 11 outings, registered their ninth win of the tournament, while the Knight Riders' hopes of making the last four shrunk further with the defeat. The Sourav Ganguly-led side remain on 10 points after 12 ties.
Set an easy asking rate of 7.4, the Royals lost the young Swapnil Asnodkar (5) early before South African Graeme Smith and Sohail Tanvir came together in the middle to pull their team out of trouble.
The duo came down hard on Ajit Agarkar in the fifth over, plundering 16 runs, with Tanvir smashing a four and a six to add to the boundary picked up by Smith to leave the visitors comfortably placed at 42 for one.
At this stage, Ganguly turned to Umar Gul, who had replaced the injured Shoaib Akhtar in the side, and the Pakistani pacer immediately gave a dramatic twist to the game by sending back both the batsmen in the same over.
First, Tanvir (13) holed out to mid on and three balls later wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha took an out-of-the-world one-handed catch diving full length to his right as Smith got a faint edge to a delivery heading down the leg side.
It was a wicket maiden and with the Royals score reading 42 for three in six overs, the match seemed wide open.
Shane Watson seemed in fine flow as he punished Agarkar with a six and a four in the ninth over and proceeded to play Ganguly past the third man fence in the tenth.
But Ganguly fought back two balls later as he got a delivery to come into the Australian, who attempted a slog, missed it and saw his off-stump uprooted.
Earlier, put in to bat, the Knight Riders could not build even a single partnership of substance.
For the hosts, skipper Sourav Ganguly top scored with 32, but he was nowhere near his best.
Middle-order bat Debabrata Das (31 off 20) looked to be in fine nick, but got out when his team expected a big knock from him.
With none of the other batsmen making an impression, the Knight Riders ended up with a total that failed to test the rampant Royals, who sealed their semi-final berth with the win.
For the victorious Royals, Sohail Tanvir claimed 3-26 and Munaf Patel 2-22.