Kolkata Knight Riders 145 for 4 (Lynn 45, Karthik 41*, Stokes 3-15) beat Rajasthan Royals 142 (Buttler 39, Kuldeep 4-20, Russell 2-13) by six wickets
Graeme Swann feels Royals should have sent in Ben Stokes at No. 3 rather than Ajinkya Rahane
Kolkata Knight Riders strengthened their position in the playoffs race after a spectacular collapse from their opponents, Rajasthan Royals, left them a relatively straightforward 143 to chase at the Eden Gardens. Sent in to bat, Royals rocketed to 59 for 0 in just four overs before losing their way completely, losing all their wickets in the next 15 overs for the addition of only 83 runs. Kuldeep Yadav, teasing the batsmen with his variations and changes of pace, finished with figures of 4 for 20, the best of his IPL career.
Unlike Royals, KKR’s top order hasn’t been reliant on one or two individuals this season, and once again they had contributions from a number of batsmen in their chase, the most sizable of them being forties from Chris Lynn and Dinesh Karthik. They got home with two overs to spare, ensuring they gave their net run rate a handy fillip ahead of their final league game.
Tripathi and Buttler explode
The game began with Royals looking like a side that had won its last three games, and Jos Buttler looking like he had scored fifties in his last five innings. Sent in to bat, Royals opened with a new combination, and they made one of the most frenzied starts ever seen in the IPL: from the third ball of the second over, bowled by Prasidh Krishna, to the last ball of the third, bowled by Shivam Mavi, Rahul Tripathi and Buttler hit ten successive boundaries: 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 4, 4, 6, 4.
KKR came into the game as the worst fast-bowling team of the season, and their record was only getting worse. Even the introduction of spin didn’t help too much, Sunil Narine going for 10 in his first over and Royals moving to 59 for 0 by the end of the fourth.
The rest implode
Teams this season have often pushed power-hitters up the order when their openers have given them flying starts, but when Andre Russell dismissed Tripathi with a well-directed bouncer in the fifth over, Royals sent in Ajinkya Rahane.
With Rahane playing himself in, ODI-style, Royals only scored 13 in the 15 balls he spent in the middle. Rahane himself faced 12 of those 15 balls, which may have helped disrupt some of Buttler’s rhythm.
Both fell to reverse-sweeps off Kuldeep Yadav – Rahane attempting that shot a sign of the pressure those quiet overs had built up – and Royals were 85 for 2 in 9.2 overs.
It wasn’t a bad situation, on the surface, but all the momentum had been sucked out of their innings, and they didn’t have too many in-form batsmen left. The two they had fallen to good balls, Sanju Samson playing around a skidder from Sunil Narine, and K Gowtham fending at a fast and accurate bouncer from Mavi – this was his fifth dismissal against the short ball this season.
There wasn’t much resistance from the rest, barring an 18-ball 26 from Jaydev Unadkat, and Royals set KKR a decidedly sub-par target.
KKR coast after Narine’s early charge
Sunil Narine doesn’t believe in playing himself in. Accordingly, he heaved the first ball he faced, the first ball of KKR’s innings, over midwicket for six. The next ball, which K Gowtham bowled a little shorter, disappeared in the same direction, and the next two went over long-on and extra-cover for six and four.
Twenty-one came off that over. That and the smallness of KKR’s target meant they were never under real pressure even as they only scored 59 off their next nine overs, for the loss of three wickets. There was some help available to the bowlers, which Ben Stokes and Unadkat exploited with changes of pace, Jofra Archer with his skiddy pace, and Ish Sodhi with a few ripping legbreaks. Thanks to Narine’s early assault, Chris Lynn could play all these bowlers with a degree of care, and anchor the innings while scoring at roughly a run a ball.
When Dinesh Karthik joined Lynn at 69 for 3 in the ninth over, KKR needed 74 from 70 balls. They added 48 at just under seven an over before Lynn miscued Stokes to deep point. By this point the required rate was less than a run a ball and Karthik and Russell finished it off in a hurry, clattering Unadkat and Archer for four fours and a six in the 17th and 18th overs.