They said our batsmen played rash shots and got out. They said our bowling lacked mettle. We admitted that we didn’t have a good day in the office a couple of days ago, but we also vouched to learn from the game and bounce back. Bounce back we did against a strong Kolkata Knight Riders side that had some massive hitters and a bunch of potent pacers and spinners. We beat the Knights by six wickets with more than an over to spare.
The platform for this victory in our last game at Mumbai was set up by our pacers. While Jaydev Unadkat, Chetan Sakariya and Mustafizur picked up a wicket apiece, Chris Morris equalled his best IPL figures of 4/23. In the second innings Sanju Samson played a matured captain’s knock of 42 to help us chase down the target of 134 comfortably.
Our start in Vivo IPL 2021 hadn’t been ideal. We had lost three out of our first four games. But so had our opponents for the day. Both Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders entered the contest with the aim to get their campaigns back on track and climb up the points table.
After a rare loss at the coin toss in the last game, our captain Sanju Samson found his luck back today. Sanju chose to chase on what was again expected to be a big scoring wicket at the Wankhede. As far as the shuffling in the line-up is concerned, Jaydev Unadkat came back in for Shreyas Gopal, and for the second change, which Samson remembered after an initial struggle, Yashasvi Jaiswal replaced Manan Vohra at the top of the order. For KKR, Kamlesh Nagarkoti made way for fellow pacer Shivam Mavi.
Jaydev Unadkat started proceedings for us with a tidy over of three runs. Chetan Sakariya took the ball from the other end and the Saurashtra boys kept things tight, giving only 14 in the first three. The fourth over got us a chance to get the breakthrough, with Shubhman Gill miscuing one off Mustafizur Rahman in the air, but Jaiswal failed to take it cleanly. Our pacers didn’t give the KKR openers many chances to free their arms in the Powerplay, restricting them to 25 with subtle changes in pace and lengths. The first wicket came from an exceptional fielding effort - a direct hit from Jos Buttler to get Gill run out in the final Powerplay over.
The change in fielding restrictions brought some respite for the batting side, who scored 20 off the next two overs. But the Strategic Time Out put a break on their momentum, as Sakariya got Nitish Rana caught behind on the very first ball of the ninth. In came Sunil Narine and found a boundary straight away. His fun wasn’t going to last long, as he top-edged a Jaydev Unadkat short, off-cutter in the next over and Yashasvi Jaiswal redeemed himself by taking a diving catch. Halfway into their innings, KKR were reeling at 55/3.
Chris Morris came back into the attack in the 11th over and was met with an innovative shot from Rahul Tripathi, who shuffled in his crease to hit the ball over the fine leg boundary. But the all rounder took advantage of another mixup in the middle and ran out the opposition skipper Eoin Morgan. Shivam Dube got the ball in the 13th, only for the second time in the tournament, and conceded just five. Tripathi and Dinesh Karthik found occasional boundaries to take their team to 93/4 at the end of the 15th over.
Mustafiz removed Tripathi in the 16th, who found Riyan Parag in the deep on 36. Riyan paired with Tewatia to bring out the ‘selfie celebration’, perhaps to break the monotony of the Bihu dance. This brought in the big Jamaican all-rounder Andre Russell. After taking a few balls to settle in, the danger man hit Morris for a six straight over his head. But our trouble didn’t last long, as Russell was caught at long-on in his attempt to take Morris for another maximum. A couple of deliveries later, the South African also got the wicket of Dinesh Karthik. Chetan Sakariya’s love affair with Wankhede continued, as he timed his jump to perfection to take an excellent catch at extra-cover.
Pat Cummins smashed Morris for a six on the first ball of the final over. He tried to go big again on the next ball, but was caught by Parag at deep-midwicket. Riyan completed the catch on the edge of the ropes, looked around for Tewatia, found him and brought out the selfie celebration once again – this time Tewatia held the ‘camera’. To wrap things up, Morris clean-bowled Shivam Mavi, ending with four wickets and proving his value in the death overs. Co-incidentally he equalled his best IPL figures of 4/23, the first one also being against KKR in Mumbai for RR in 2015.
KKR set us a target of 134, way below par on this ground.
Shivam Mavi troubled our opening pair early on in our innings by getting the ball to move and nearly got us a wicket down without a run on the board. But Shubhman Gill gave Yashasvi Jaiswal a life by dropping him at backward point and the latter recovered to score two back-to-back fours in the next over. Eoin Morgan brought in spin in the fourth over through Varun Chakaravarthy and he got Jos Buttler trapped in front of the stumps. In came captain Samson, and hit a four with a classy shot off his first ball. Yashasvi was looking in good touch, finding the boundary a few times, but he mistimed one off Mavi to find the fielder. A six from new batter Shivam Dube off Narine took us to 50/2 at the end of the Powerplay.
With the team comfortably placed in the run chase, Samson and Dube played the steady game to get a partnership going, without missing the opportunities to go for a four or a six, whenever they came. But Dube ended up miscuing one from Chakaravarthy in the 11th over, giving the KKR spinner his second wicket of the night. Samson now started the partnership building task with Rahul Tewatia, but the latter also departed soon, getting caught via a top-edge off Prasidh Krishna in the 14th.
The next over saw Shivam Mavi appealing for an LBW and the umpire lazily raising his finger after some contemplation. David Miller quickly reviewed the decision and was saved, the ball had pitched way outside leg. Four balls later, Mavi appealed again, but this time the umpire didn’t oblige. It was KKR’s turn to go upstairs, but the outcome was the exact same as before. With five overs left, our score stood at 104/4.
Samson and Miller did not face much difficulty in finishing the task from there. The KKR bowlers gave us a boundary every over till only 5 runs were needed off the last two overs. The captain hit the winning runs. We chased down the total with seven deliveries remaining.
A much needed comeback has been completed by the Royals. If not a big victory, this was certainly a comfortable win. The Royals have climbed to number 6 on the points table with the aim to get into the top 4 soon. We would be hoping that the team carries the momentum, and the confidence, and continues on the winning path, as we travel to Delhi for our next leg. We play our first game in the capital against defending champions, Mumbai Indians on 29th April.