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Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals
Tuesday 15th May 2018
Eden Gardens, Kolkata

The Royals came into this key match with plenty of confidence after winning their last three matches in a row. Jos Buttler was in unbelievable form having just scored his fifth consecutive half-century against the Mumbai Indians to seal the game for his side. Hopes were high that another two points would soon be in the bag as the Royals bandwagon surged towards the play offs…

At around 8.40pm Indian time that bandwagon was going full steam ahead, with Buttler again striking the ball to all parts of the ground, Tripathi earlier finding the form that had been eluding him all tournament and the Kolkata bowlers looking embattled and their fans looking forlorn – however cricket is a cruel mistress and a capricious wife…

Jinks lost the toss and KKR captain Dinesh Karthik opted to bowl first, perhaps aware that Buttler’s batsmanship seemed to be able to knock any target off at the moment. However, Karthik was soon regretting his decision when the Royals got off to a scorching start. Our openers might have only scored two runs from the first over, but they then added a remarkable 57 runs in the next three overs. Jos Buttler and Rahul Tripathi – the Royals’ seventh different opening pair this season – flayed the KKR quicks early on and caused a whole heap of damage; 19 runs were scored in the second over, 28 in the third and 10 in the fourth. It was like a train going through cardboard boxes left on the rails – obliterating.

Jos Buttler extended his fine form and helped himself to 39 from 22 balls. When there was the width, he played the cut and pummelled the ball through point. When the ball was full, he drove fluently through the off-side. When the deliveries were straight, he played the scoop to collect superb sixes over fine-leg. The Englishman was particularly severe on the young bowler Shivam Mavi, whom he hit for 4, 6, 4, 4, 6, 4 in the third over of the innings. The Royals opener was dismissed in the tenth over – just after the strategic timeout – when he attempted a reverse sweep but picked the point fielder; his knock contained five fours and two sixes. Jaws dropped and there were looks of disbelief in the Royals dug out due to the fact he hadn’t made yet another 50, and perhaps that is one explanation for what happened next…

The ensuing events were incredible – and highly traumatic for Royals fans. From 63 for no loss, the Royals lost all ten wickets for the addition of just 79 runs in a period of 14.1 overs. It was one of the most spectacular collapses in IPL history, and showed how over reliant we have become on Jos’s batting. Once he was out the wheels fell off the train and no-one seemed able to fix them back on.

Jaydev Unadkat, batting at number eight, delayed the train crash briefly; he scored 26 from 18 balls. We were bowled out for 142 and committed the cardinal sin in limited overs cricket of not facing every possible ball – a whole over remained when our last wicket fell. That last wicket was a heave across the line to a straight ball, a mistake which summed up an incomprehensible period of cricket.

KKR’s Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav picked up 5 wickets between them to do most of the damage, and credit must go to the KKR bowlers for clawing their way back into the contest. Once they found the opening they needed, their bowlers thrived. Between overs 6 & 14, KKR conceded just 44 runs. Between overs 8 & 14, barring one over, they picked up a wicket in every over. Kuldeep Yadav imposed himself on our batsmen and ended with figures of 4-0-20-4. The wrist spinner was outstanding; he got the ball to turn both ways, changed his pace well too, and picked up key wickets. His first scalp was that of Rahane, who didn’t connect while attempting a reverse sweep and was clean bowled. The well-set Buttler’s reverse sweep off a seam-up delivery found the point fielder, Stuart Binny was outfoxed by a brilliant googly to be stumped, and Ben Stokes’s leading edge carried back to the bowler. Legendary leggie Shane Warne, sat in the Royals dug out, must have been impressed and devastated at the same time.

However special mention should also go to Andre Russell. Given the ball in the fifth over, Russell made an instant impact. He had Rahul Tripathi caught behind from his fifth ball, and that started the derailment of the Rajasthan innings. The Jamaican bowled three tidy overs and finished with figures of 2-13 – the other wicket being that of Jofra Archer in the eighteenth over. Russell would be the only bowler in the match to not concede a single boundary.

When it came to KKR’s turn to bat it soon became apparent that they’d decided to go for the total hard rather than edging their way towards it. A more cautious approach at the top might have led to a nervy display similar to Rajasthan’s. Sunil Narine collected two sixes and two fours off the first four balls of the chase before he was dismissed early in the next over.

KKR had got off to a strong start but after that the runs dried up briefly. However, even though the Royals bowlers picked up occasional wickets, opener Chris Lynn batted deep into the chase ensuring one set batsman was in the middle. His knock of 45 was the top-score of the match. It wasn’t the typical blazing innings we are used to seeing from the Australian, but it was a very important knock for his team.

Knowing the target wasn’t too demanding, the KKR opener was prepared to bide his time. He batted patiently against the spinners and was more aggressive against the quicks. He opened his account with a flurry of boundaries, but then went 18 deliveries without finding the fence. The wily Aussie focused on singles, strike-rotation and building partnerships. Lynn was dismissed in the sixteenth over – with his team just 26 runs away and the game effectively won. His 45 came from 42 balls and he hit five boundaries and a six. Captain Dinesh Karthik came out to bat at five, scored a quick-fire 41 and helped finish the job

Ben Stokes was the Royals’ best bowler. We needed someone to step up and bowl a tight spell first up, and the Englishman answered the call. He bowled a three-over spell in the powerplay – in which he dismissed Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa. Big Ben returned to bowl the 16th over and added to his tally the wicket Chris Lynn, to eventually finish with figures of 4-1-15-3.

However, that sterling effort wasn’t enough to get this train back on the rails and on track for the Play Offs. Our hopes are now hanging by a thread. A big win in our last match at home to RCB and, if other results go our way we could still make the top four. However, our fate is now out of our hands and no-one knows where our locomotive is heading…

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