Brief scores: Rajasthan Royals 152/5 (20) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 158/3 (19.1) by 7 wickets.
“It was a great effort (with the ball), we showed some real fight in the game and the energy was really amazing”, said captain Sanju Samson after the Royals ended up on the receiving end of a 7-wicket loss at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders. Defending a 150-odd total was never going to be easy, but our bowlers fought hard to take the contest to the final over. At the end, it all came down to the batting unit that executed their plans better. And this time, the KKR batters were ahead in phases, eventually edging past the Royals. Earlier, Sanju & co. were put into bat once again on a slowish batting surface. It looked like the ball was stopping a bit, as our openers started to acclimatise to the conditions. Devdutt Padikkal was caught in the midst of a swinging spell of fast bowling from Umesh Yadav. But Sanju came in showing great intent with the bat yet again. His fighting half-century helped stitch a couple of important partnerships, first with Jos Buttler and then with Karun Nair. A brief 13-ball 27 from Shimron Hetmyer at the death helped the team get past 150. 30 runs came off the last two overs, but the Royals would’ve liked to add 15-20 more to it, as admitted by Sanju in the post-match presentation. As for our bowling, Kuldeep Sen continued to impress, cleaning up opener Aaron Finch. Prasidh Krishna followed with a fiery bouncer to Baba Indrajith, who top-edged one to the fine leg fielder. But a solid first six overs were followed by a quiet period as the KKR batters kept the scoreboard ticking by rotating the strike. Shreyas Iyer was sent back by Trent Boult in the 13th over, but by then the required run rate was well under KKR’s control. Let’s take a look at some of the positives from the match: Sanju’s valiant knock Despite a visible back niggle, Sanju Samson continued to hold fort at one end with his timely boundaries. His 54 included seven fours and a six, and it was the knock that defined the Royals’ batting. Our openers’ early dismissals meant that Sanju had to hold back and resurrect the innings, which he did with a mix of caution and aggression. His innings set the stage for Shimron to come in and finish on a high. Bowlers put up a fight
Even if the wickets column says otherwise, our bowling unit stepped up to deliver another commendable performance. For the seventh time in the season, we picked two wickets inside the Powerplay. The third wicket didn’t fall until the 13th over, but even then there was a continued fightback from our bowlers - something that we’ve seen in all our losses so far. Our spinners were fairly economical but had an off day, which meant that the onus was on the fast bowlers. And that’s where they showed true character, taking the game deep, even with some umpiring calls going against them in terms of wide deliveries.
Hettie finds his touch back
After a quiet outing against Mumbai Indians in the last game, Shimron Hetmyer showed glimpses of his returning form with a quickfire cameo towards the end of the first innings. A couple of big sixes and a four meant that we added some much-needed runs to our total. With Hettie returning to his usual form, the Royals can look forward to a big knock in the upcoming games.
Like they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The Royals have played two games in a span of three days and have lost both. But they now have a five-day break to go back to the drawing board and reassess. In a tournament as dynamic as the IPL, there will always be phases of highs and lows. The important thing though is to keep the spirits up and focus on what’s coming next. On a number of occasions this season, this team has shown that there is a wild fire that runs in their belly, and that they never give up without putting up a fight. And it is why we will wait for this team to bounce back harder, stronger and better.
With four crucial games coming up, we can’t wait to watch the Royals back at their best. We return to Wankhede on May 7 to take on Punjab Kings in a day game.