Kolkata Knight Riders were at their lethal best against the table-toppers Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday.
Royals had last won their first three games of a season back in 2015, before their two-year ban kicked in. Having started this IPL with back-to-back wins, including a record-breaking chase on Sunday, the Steve Smith-led side were believed to be the favourites against the KKR.
However, the trust put on by KKR team management on their young talents seems to be paying dividends as 21-year-old opener Shubman Gill (47 off 34), the young bowling duo Shivam Mavi (20-2 in 4 overs) and Kamlesh Nagarkoti (13 for 2 in 2 overs) have consistently fired this season and helped the 2-time champions KKR down the high-flying Rajasthan Royals by 38 runs.
Rajasthan Royals began the chase on a positive note in the first over but soon things started to fall apart as the crucial trio of Steve Smith (3), Sanju Samson (8) and Jos Buttler (21) departed to the dugout quickly as they could not get the chase going.
They dug a hole for themselves with poor shot selection on a different wicket having played their earlier games in Sharjah.
Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti were in terrific form picking up the key wickets to put the pressure on the Royals from the start. Rahul Tewatia and Tom Curran put a decent partnership before the former had to depart being castled by Varun Chakravarthy.
Tom Curran was the lone warrior who stood at the crease till the end and scored an unbeaten knock of 54 runs in 36 balls with three sixes and two fours.
After winning the toss and surprisingly choosing to bowl first, Steve Smith's Royals put the pressure on the KKR batting in the powerplay courtesy some splendid bowling from Jofra Archer. Shubhman Gill and Nitish Rana (22) steadied their innings for a while as Andre Russell came in for a quick cameo of 24 runs.
Eoin Morgan played alongside the lower order and scored a handy knock of 34 runs to provide the much-needed boost towards the end of the innings as they racked up 174 runs on the board.
Jofra Archer’s extreme pace
After being criticised for bowling slower ones with the new ball in the previous two games, Jofra Archer stuck to what he does the best – bowling at an extreme pace.
Archer crossed the 150km/hr barrier twice in the opening over and the slowest ball was 147.4 km/hr, making openers Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine dance on his tunes.
Archer hit the deck hard and also clocked the fastest delivery of the tournament (152.1 kph) in a fiery spell, taking two key wickets of in-form opener Shubman Gill (47 from 34 balls) and skipper Dinesh Karthik (1). The Royals' spearhead finished with figures of 4-0-18-2 and also triggered the KKR collapse.
KKR’s batting order
Gill got a start and stitched two decent partnerships upfront with Sunil Narine and Nitish Rana. Russell came in at No.5 and looked dangerous but perished to Ankit Rajpoot. If not for Morgan's composure to bat out the innings, KKR would have struggled to get past 170. Morgan’s promotion up the order and pushing Narine down can give KKR tail a better chance of swinging at the end. Knight Riders were never able to rebound strongly after Russell’s wicket and questions over Sunil Narine's form continue to persist.
Focus on Kuldeep Yadav now
Kuldeep Yadav's form has been a real concern and one wonders if letting him bowl his quota of overs when the match was almost in KKR’s pocket would have helped him regain the confidence. Kolkata Knight Riders' strike bowler till 2018, Kuldeep Yadav has averaged a wicket for 55 balls in past two seasons. In 2019, Yadav played nine games and produced only four wickets. This season too, Kuldeep Yadav is a bowler batting teams have liked targeting. However, KKR have had the back of their players. Can Kuldeep repay that faith this season?
Kolkata Knight Riders
S Gill c & b Archer 47 (34)
S Narine b Unadkat 15 (14)
N Rana c Parag b Tewatia 22 (17)
A Russell c Unadkat b Rajpoot 24(14)
D Karthik c Buttler b Archer 1 (3)
E Morgan not out 34 (23)
P Cummins c Samson b Curran 12 (10)
K Nagarkoti not out 8 (5)
Extras: (lb-3, w-8) 11
TOTAL: (20 overs) 174-6
FoW: 1-36, 2-82, 3-89, 4-106, 5-115, 6-149
Bowling: J Archer 4-0-18-2, A Rajpoot 4-0-39-1, J Unadkat 2-0-14-1, T Curran 4-0-37-1, S Gopal 4-0-43-0, R Parag 1-0-14-0, R Tewatia 1-0-6-1
J Buttler c Varun b S Mavi 21 (16)
S Smith c Karthik b Cummins 3 (7)
S Samson c Narine b S Mavi 8 (9)
R Uthappa c S Mavi b Nagarkoti 2 (7)
R Parag c S Gill b Nagarkoti 1 (6)
R Tewatia b Varun 14 (10)
T Curran not out 54 (36)
S Gopal c Karthik b Narine 5 (7)
J Archer c Nagarkoti b Varun 6 (4)
J Unadkat c Nagarkoti b K Yadav 9 (13)
A Rajpoot not out 7 (5)
Extras: (lb-6, w-1) 7
TOTAL: (20 overs) 137-9
FoW: 1-15, 2-30, 3-39, 4-41, 5-42, 6-66, 7-81, 8-88, 9-106
Bowling: S Narine 4-0-40-1, P Cummins 3-0-13-1, S Mavi 4-0-20-2, K Nagarkoti 2-0-13-2, C Varun 4-0-25-2, K Yadav 3-0-20-1
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