Kolkata Knight Riders fans might have been anxious when their boys set Rajasthan Royals just 170 for a shot at Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier, but tight bowling saw them stroll home in comfort.
Krishnappa Gowtham made early inroads into the KKR batting, sending them reeling at 24-3 before stuttering to 51-4 after eight overs. Shubman Gill (28 off 17 balls) got the innings rolling in partnership with the super-experienced Dinesh Karthik, who scored 52 off 38 balls (four fours, two sixes). Enter the dragon slayer, Andre Russell, who quite literally rocketed the Riders from 106-5 in the 15th over to 169-7 at the end of their innings, scoring 77% of his side’s runs while at the crease.
Russell ended one shy of his half-century, with three fours and five booming sixes coming off just 25 balls (S/R 196.00). Gowtham ended with 2-15 (economy 5.00) off his three overs, but Ish Sodhi was exceptional, restricting the KKR batsmen to just 3.75 runs per over off his bowling. West Indian Jofra Archer (2-33) and Aussie Ben Laughlin (2-35) got among the wickets, but both struggled to contain the batsmen from hitting boundaries.
Piyush Chawla of the Kolkata Knight Riders catches Rahul Tripathi of the Rajasthan Royals.
The Royals started well, getting to 47-1 after 5.1 overs, but couldn’t get into gear despite their top four batsmen all making good starts. They ended the match just four wickets down but still 25 runs shy of the winning target.
Ajinkya Rahane (46 off 41 balls) and Sanju Samson (50 off 38 balls) put in a brave effort, but the KKR bowlers were far too disciplined and throttled the challenge out of the RR batting lineup. South African Heinrich Klaasen was looking like the game-changer in the final overs, but he struggled to strike and ended 18 not out off 18 balls.
Kuldeep Yadav was Scrooge-like with the ball, throwing down 13 dot balls at an economy rate of just 4.50 to take 1-18, and Piyush Chawla kept things tight as well, taking 2-24 at 6.00 per over. Russell added to his batting heroics with a solid spell with the ball, his three overs going for just 22 runs.
RR skipper Rahane admitted his disappointment after the match, especially considering that his side got off to a good start with the ball. ‘The dropped catch of Russell hurt, but when you start your chase so well, you generally win the game, but KKR bowled really well and that’s disappointed us. I thought the total was gettable, and the partnerships between me and Rahul and me and Sanju were good. But credit to Kuldeep and the spinners. With eight wickets in hand with five overs to go, we should’ve gotten the job done. Through the season, our bowlers have been great, but we need to improve on our batting for next season,’ he admitted.
Man of the Match Russell said afterwards that he was feeling good. ‘Been hectic since the Kings XI game. Every game has been a final for us since then, so it feels good to contribute. I have a clear head, so if you get a short ball, slower ball, wide ball, you can play accordingly. Once I connect, I know it’ll be either a four or a six. I swing hard, and that’s what helps the ball to go over the road,’ he said, before looking ahead to Friday’s shootout for a spot in the final. ‘Every game is a final for us, and the home advantage will be good. It’s going to be a new game, so we need to start afresh.’
Photo by: Ron Gaunt/SPORTZPICS for BCCI