In a game perceived to be dominated by batsmen, it is always a blissful sight to see bowlers have their say on a few occasions. For fans of fast bowling, it was one such night as Varun Aaron decided to rattle the KKR top order with his pace and swing. His first delivery swung into Chris Lynn who played a dead block, second one was left alone and the third ball crashed into Lynn’s stumps who was beaten by both pace and swing.
The last ball of the 5th over was apparently an unplayable delivery, especially in the T20 format where the batsmen generally look to keep with the run rate. It swung in viciously to knock the bails off and suddenly KKR was in a spot of bother with both their openers - Lynn and Gill back in the hut. Smith placed two slips in the next over and it seemed more like a Test match with the white ball at Eden Gardens instead of a T20 game.
Dinesh Karthik, in at 4 with over 14 overs to go had the pressure of leading from the front, leave his lean patch of runs and give some direction to the innings. He began with the disaster management approach but saw Nitish Rana at the other end being replaced by the swashbuckler, Sunil Narine. In the meantime, KKR was still struggling to add the T20 flavor to their innings reeling at 49/3 at the halfway point in their innings.
The 11th over of the innings which began with Dinesh Karthik smashing Shreyas Gopal for a six, following it up with three boundaries and ended with another maximum from Sunil Narine finally witnessed the shades of a T20 contest. Narine went back to the hut in a poor display of running between the wickets but it was a blessing in disguise for KKR’s attempt to boost their run rate.
The big man who had subtly complained of not getting enough overs to bat now had the chance to set himself for the big stage - death overs. Steve Smith understood the urgency of the moment and brought in Oshane Thomas to the attack. The spinners had now taken backseat and the ploy was clear from the visitors - to bounce Russell out.
Not at his best today and struggling with the wrist, Dre Russ gave the visitors a couple of chance who refused to take them before the 17-year old Riyan Parag finally held on to a catch at the deep mid-wicket boundary in the 17th over - off another short ball, from Oshane Thomas.
Despite an off day for Russell, KKR managed to tonk 75 runs in the last 5 overs, this time Dinesh Karthik at helm taking his side from a precarious position to a formidable 175. Karthik’s innings wasn’t not based on bludgeoning the ball but on timing the ball pristinely to the boundary lines scoring boundaries consistently against Jofra Archer and Jaydev Unadkat.
4 6 0 6 1 read the last five balls of the 20th over from Jaydev Unadkat and Dinesh Karthik ended up scoring his highest IPL score - a chanceless 97* from 50 balls.
Going by the history of this edition of IPL, 175 was just a par-total but the momentum had shifted towards the home side. Rahane and Samson began Rajasthan’s reply with some authority and put 50 runs on the board within the first 5 overs. Karthik threw the ball to the age-old hero of the franchise and Narine brought KKR back in the game by trapping Rahane straight in front of the stumps. Next over, Chawla hit the timber against Samson who was too cheeky to get the execution right and Smith playing all over a fullish delivery from Narine put Rajasthan in a deep muddle.
In a game where the pacers were dominating till yet, it was now spinners turn to take the centre-stage. Stokes perished to Chawla who was in the middle of a terrific spell and Rajasthan seemed like losing out on another important phase of the game to fall out of the bigger battle.
Wickets might be tumbling but the Rajasthan batsmen kept playing their strokes. On the other hand, Karthik also refused to go on the backfoot and went through with Piyush Chawla’s spell who took Binny in his last over to end with the immaculate figures of 3/20.
Shreyas Gopal joined the party and played a decent cameo off 18 from 9 balls and with Chawla out of equation, it seemed to be the first time KKR was losing grip of the game since the end of the powerplay phase in the run chase.
Rajasthan had kept up with the asking rate and the presence of the cool and calm teenager Riyan Parag to face the lacklustre bowling attack in the death overs had set it up nicely for an interesting finish. As expected, the right-hander took the charge and couple with Jofra Archer’s more-than-decent power-hitting skills, KKR under-performing fast bowling attack was finally feeling the heat.
Parag had struck a highly impactful 47 off 31 balls before being dismissed in the penultimate over by Andre Russell. KKR had somehow managed to stay in the game with 9 runs still needed from the final set of 6 deliveries but Jofra Archer who had seen Rajasthan bottle quite a few games so far was in no mood to give it away.
An outside edge took the ball over third-man boundary and a neat strike off the next ball saw Rajasthan finally cross the final hurdle in crunch finishing moments to register a resounding win.
With six defeats in a row, this seems to be a knockout punch for KKR and they find themselves in a situation where they can attain 14 points at best by the end of the season.
Shubman Gill’s dismissal saw Kolkata’s chances drop by 14% which already took a hit after Chris Lynn went back for a duck in the first over.
18th over of Rajasthan’s run-chase where Parag hit Prasidh Krishna for a four and six in the last three balls elevated their chances of victory 26% - the biggest shift in the game.
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