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Rising Pune Supergiant rode on little-known Rahul Tripathi's career-best 93 of 52 balls to win, by four wickets, an Indian Premier League (IPL) engagement against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday and take giant strides towards the playoffs. Pune, now on 14 points from 11 games, moved to third spot with KKR staying on second with the same number of points as Pune from 11 outings. Replying to KKR's 155/8, Pune scored 158/6 in 19.2 overs. Tripathi, who is playing his first IPL, brought up his fifty in just 23 deliveries with eight fours and three sixes. The Maharashtra batsman went from strength to strength after his half-century spanking chinaman Kuleep Yadav for three sixes on the trot in the 13th over. Chris Woakes fared best among the bowlers for the hosts (3/18) taking the wickets of Pune and Australia skipper Steve Smith (9) and in-form Manoj Tiwary (8) off two excellent deliveries.
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Umesh Yadav (1/22) removed India teammate Ajinkya Rahane (11) early but it was Tripathi who remained unfazed and took the charges against the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile whom he spanked for 32 runs. Ben Stokes, the hero of Pune's last game against Gujarat Lions, departed for 14 but by the time the million-dollar England all-rounder trotted back towards the dugout, the job was all but done. In came Mahendra Singh Dhoni to loud cheers only to make the long walk back to the dressing room scoring just 5 with Kuldeep picking his wicket. Tripathi was finally dismissed by Woakes, seven runs short of his maiden ton but Dan Christian (9 not out) hit the winning runs with a six off Colin de Grandhomme in the final over.
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Earlier, the New Zealand all-rounder Grandhomme's 36 and Manish Pandey's 37 saved KKR the blushes as the hosts recovered from a top-order collapse to post 155/8. Jaydev Unadkat (2/28) and Washington Sundar (2/18) were the best bowlers for Pune. Grandhomme (36 of 19 balls) and Pandey (37 of 19 balls) joined hands when their side were tottering at 55/4 to stitch together a 48-run stand for the fifth wicket. Suryakumar Yadav (30 off 16 not out) struck some lusty blows at the death hitting two consecutive fours and a six off Unadkat who leaked 21 runs in the penultimate over. Sans the services of their best batsman Robin Uthappa -- out with a niggle, the hosts' batting lacked zip losing three wickets for just 41 runs in the Powerplay. Sunil Narine was the first to go, not connecting with the ball in the first five deliveries to finally give bowler Unadkat an easy catch in his follow through.
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Sheldon Jackon (10) followed suit soon after, getting hit wicket off the bowling of Sundar. Skipper Gautam Gambhir (24) hit Stokes for two back-to-back fours and in the next over, tanked Sundar for a boundary and a six before holing out to Rahane at deep midwicket. Imran Tahir got rid of Yusuf Pathan (4) as the men in purple who have an enviable record at home looked hapless. Pandey and Grandhomme -- dropped once at long -off by Dan Christian when the New Zealander was on 10 -- steadied the ship somewhat before Pandey got out.
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Christian made amends for his grassed catch, with a slower one which Pandey failed to pick, giving an easy catch to Rahane at deep midwicket. Unadkat got the wicket of Grandhomme with Woakes (1) getting running out soon after. Coulter-Nile scored six before falling to Stokes as Umesh Yadav remained unbeaten with Suryakumar on 2.