Rajasthan Royals (RR) held their nerve to beat Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by three wickets and four balls to spare in an away match at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. Chasing KKR’s 175 for six in 20 overs, RR helped by cameo knocks from the top order batsmen reached 177 for 7 in 19.2 overs.
RR’s effort dwarfed the sterling knock of KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik, who made a valiant 97 not out to give his team a fighting total after being sent into bat by RR captain Steve Smith.
Young right-hand batsman Riyan Parag was the undoubted hero for RR as he played a cool and composed innings of 47 runs from 31 balls with two sixes and five fours. He brought his team within sight of an easy victory in the company of West Indian Jofra Archer before losing his wicket to a freakish dismissal of ‘hit wicket’ by backing up too far in trying to swing Andre Russell on the leg side.
Whatever little hopes KKR had of making a late comeback was smashed by Archer who slammed Prasidh Krishna for a winning six in the second ball of the last over. Archer had edged the previous ball to the fine third man fence for a four. The disappointment was palpably writ large on the faces of KKR players even as Riyan ran to the middle to hug Archer for finishing off what he started.
This was KKR’s sixth consecutive defeat and were stunningly left on sixth position in the points table with eight points from 11 matches and a net run rate (NRR) of -0.050. RR reclaimed their seventh spot – which they briefly lost after RCB’s win on Wednesday – with eight points from 11 games and NRR of -0.390. RR’s win pushed RCB back to the last spot, also with eight points and a NRR of -0.683. KKR’s aspirations of making to the top four has more or less been punctured by this home loss to RR.
KKR’s Sunil Narine is a typical bits and pieces player – essentially a bowler who can a bat too. It is in the IPL he discovered his ability as a pinch hitter to a nicety, at times opening the innings to power the batting side. But on Thursday, he proved his worth in his core ability as a bowler striking crucial blows by claiming the wickets of Rahane and Steve Smith, which proved a great setback for RR. But his efforts were undermined by the determination of the later order RR batsmen.
KKR had lost their previous matches and were desperate for a win. The desperation was seen in the batting determination of captain Dinesh Karthik (DK as he is fondly known) who slammed an unbeaten 97 from 50 balls with nine six and seven fours. DK single-handedly propelled KKR to a competitive total from a pathetic 42 for three in 8.2 overs.
Though wickets kept falling at the other end DK stitched together small but useful partnerships to ensure that his team scored a fighting total. His career best 97 not out in IPL games came at the right moment as DK promoted himself to the fourth spot in the batting order to give his team the much needed stability. Andre Russell, who has been the biggest hitter of the season, was affected by a wrist niggle and failed to make much of a mark in this match.
KKR, riding on DK’s brilliant effort, scored 126 from the last 10 overs and 75 off the last five overs. Karthik was especially severe on left-arm medium pacer Jaydev Unadkat and leg-break bowler Shreyas Gopal. DK hit Shreyas Gopal for a six, followed by three boundaries in the 11th over that yielded 25 runs.
DK completed his 50 from 35 balls and smashed Jofra Archer for successive sixes in the 19th over before bettering his previous best of 86 when he smashed Unadkat for two sixes and one four in the final over. Unadkat conceded 50 runs for one wicket and undid all the good work done by Varun Aaron (2/20) who had a fine new ball spell of 3-1-10-2.