23rd May 2018
KKR v Rajasthan Royals – Eliminator Play Off
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Our Rollercoaster comes to an end – but thanks for a Thrilling Ride Royals!
Well our dream had to come to an end sometime – and perhaps the ‘Garden of Eden’ is an appropriate location for that to happen, but what a thrilling journey we have had! Our players, leadership group and management team can leave IPL 2018 with their heads held high and reflect back on a job well done. They can lick their wounds, take rest, and then regroup ready for next year.
The bare facts can’t be debated – we were defeated by 25 runs in the Eliminator played at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday evening. Put in to bat, KKR recovered from a poor start to post 169 for 7. The Royals were in control of their chase for the most part, but the dismissals of the two well-set batsmen –Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson – came at a wrong time and we finished on 144 for 4.
A few hours earlier, KKR had lost Sunil Narine to the second ball of the match and subsided to 51 for 4. The Royals sensed blood. Perhaps we could run through KKR and have a sub hundred total to chase to keep our tournament alive? However, KKR are a strong resilient unit, and they recovered through captain Dinesh Karthik’s half-century, his 51-run partnership with Shubman Gill (28), and an end of innings blitz from Andre Russell which helped his team reach the comparative luxury of 69 for 7. KKR were just 46-3 at the end of the powerplay. They added 68 runs in the middle period and finished with a flourish, adding 55 runs in the final five overs. It was a strong and admirable recovery.
Special mention should go to their skipper – who led from the front. Despite walking out to bat in the fourth over of the KKR innings, with his side in trouble, Dinesh Karthik was full of positivity. The KKR skipper hit three boundaries in the first five balls he faced – one through fine-leg and two fluent drives through the off-side. He then settled down for the long haul and kept the scoreboard ticking. In the fourteenth over, he collected a six off the leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal, and then brought up his half-century with a top-edged six off Unadkat. Karthik was dismissed at the start of the eighteenth over; he’d made 52 and his 38-ball knock contained 4 fours and 2 sixes.
However fine that knock was through, it was Russell’s that would secure him the man of the match award. He’d played out three dot balls at the start of his innings – but then the third ball he faced was called a ‘No Ball’ for being the second short-pitched delivery of the over. Not a great move by the bowler, Jofra, because the following delivery would be a free-hit, which the Jamaican gleefully dismissed deep into the stands at long-on. That moment seemed to energise the West Indian. He dealt in boundaries after that. Unadkat was particularly harshly dealt with. He was hit for a four and six off consecutive deliveries, Laughlin was deposited into the stands twice in the eighteenth over, and a miscue off Archer sailed over long-off too. In the twentieth over, Russell collected two boundaries off Laughlin. He eventually finished unbeaten on 49 - his knock contained three fours and five sixes. His destructive knock swung the game in the KKR direction.
The Royals spin trio were outstanding. On a pitch that offered grip and turn, K Gowtham and Ish Sodhi finished with economy rates of 5.00 and 3.75 respectively. Our tweakers made good use of the assistance the surface provided them. K Gowtham, who bowled all his three overs in the powerplay, stuck to a wicket-to-wicket line and accounted for the scalps of Sunil Narine (stumped second ball of the match) and Robin Uthappa (caught off the leading edge). The off-spinner bowled ten dot balls in his spell, and returned figures of 3-0-15. Ish Sodhi also returned exceptional figures – his were 4-0-15-0. The Kiwi leg-spinner was utilised in three spells; he bowled overs 7 and 9, and then returned to bowl overs 13 and 16. Sodhi bowled half the quota of his spell to Karthik, yet only conceded 8 runs. Shreyas Gopal bowled three excellent overs – hitting a particular area on the pitch consistently, before a 20-run final over ruined his figures; the leg-spinner from Bengaluru deceived Chris Lynn and held on to a return catch in his first over. He conceded 11 runs in his second and third overs, before Shubman Gill and Karthik took toll in his final over.
As far as our pacemen are concerned, Ben Laughlin and Jofra Archer chipped in with two wickets each. Sadly, Jaydev Unadkat had another forgettable outing; the left-arm spinner bowled only two overs in which he conceded 33 runs. Hopefully he will find his form in Royals colours next year.
When it was our turn to bat, our openers gave us a perfect platform for the chase; Rahane and Rahul Tripathi (20 from 13 balls) added 47 in five overs before the latter was dismissed, screaming to the sky in frustration. Rahane (46 from 41 balls) and Samson (50 from 38 balls) then added 62 runs for the second wicket. While Rahane decided to play a mainstay role, Samson delivered yet another hard hitting attractive innings. For a while things looked good for a successful Royal run chase.
However their flourishing partnership was broken when Rahane was dismissed first ball after the batting timeout; the RR captain attempted to sweep a full delivery, but the ball came off the toe of the bat and lobbed back to the bowler Kuldeep Yadav. It was to prove a turning point in the match. Samson played a few elegant strokes, but perished in the seventeenth over – soon after he had brought up his half-century. RR never recovered from the dismissals of the two well-set batsmen.
Dinesh Karthik trusted his spinners, and they did not let him down on the day. Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav provided KKR timely breakthroughs. Chawla (4-0-24-2) broke a blossoming opening stand in the sixth over; he deceived Rahul Tripathi with a googly and moved swiftly to his right to take a one-handed return catch. In his final over – the 17th of the innings, he accounted for the wicket of Samson, who pulled a short delivery but was beaten for pace and picked out long-on.Kuldeep Yadav returned sensational figures of 4-0-18-1; the left-arm wrist spinner bowled 13 dot balls in his spell and dismissed Rahane at a crucial point in the chase. In the end the last over was an anti climax and the innings fell away with too many runs to get in too short a time. The 25 run defeat sounds more emphatic than it was – we were in this match for long spells, but some crucial interventions by doughty opponents did for us.
For the Royals it was so near yet so far. Perhaps it was too much to ask for us to win this fixture without our two England stars Stokes and Buttler – especially the latter who has been on fire this IPL. Perhaps we should have been grateful to have been in the play offs at all after losing our skipper and a world class talent in the form of Steve Smith on the eve of the tournament. Perhaps we should simply be grateful that on their IPL 2018 journey the Royals gave us the usual exciting spills and thrills that always comes with watching their exciting branch of cricket…
No! We are the Royals and we could have gone all the way whatever adversity threw at us – and next year we will!