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Friday, October 22, 2021

A night to remember for KKR: Kolkata all but seal the fourth playoff spot with 86-run win over Rajasthan

Organised batting, clinical bowling put KKR on the cusp of Playoffs. Royals sign off tamely

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: October 8, 2021 3:12:35 pm
Lockie Ferguson came and broke the backbone of Royals’ batting with two wickets inside three deliveries (IPL)

Once Kolkata Knight Riders had posted the highest total, 171/4, by any team at Sharjah in this year’s Indian Premier League, the game was over. Rajasthan Royals, devoid of inspiration, fight and proper planning, never looked to be good enough to chase down 172. So, it was about KKR’s victory margin to consolidate their Playoffs chances. Royals were all out for 85 in 16.1 overs and after an 86-run victory, KKR are all but through to the last four. Royals fizzled quicker than expected.

Organised KKR

Under Eoin Morgan’s leadership this term, KKR have put a huge emphasis on planning, with team analyst Nathan Leamon at its forefront.

They had to win this game, else Mumbai Indians’ equation would have been straight forward – beat Sunrisers Hyderabad and go to the knockouts. Only a couple of days ago, MI had bundled out Royals for 90 at this venue and when Morgan lost the toss on Thursday and was asked to bat first, it felt like a tricky task. But the team’s organisation shone through.

The brief was clear for the two openers, Subhuman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer – not to lose early wickets, never mind around six-plus run-rate to start with. The duo remained unseparated until the 11th over, putting on 79 runs for the opening wicket. Gill and Iyer targeted loose balls to hit fours and sixes. Occasionally, good balls too were taken care of, in a risk-free way. When Jaydev Unadkat bowled a cross-seamer and pitched it on the required six-metre Sharjah length, Iyer stood tall and hit it over the sightscreen. Playing straight on this pitch was the key and Iyer’s upright stance helped him generate power.

On a difficult surface, Gill was timing the ball well. Impatience had affected his shot selection this season. But today the opener showed excellent application. After getting beaten against Jaydev Unadkat in the very first ball of the match, Gill responded with a drive over mid-off for a four. Like Iyer, he also initially targeted the ‘V’ for his runs. The ball wasn’t coming on to the bat, so the two openers came out of the crease to meet the ball. The way Gill used his feet and converted a good delivery from Chetan Sakariya to hit a six was excellent.

Iyer upped the ante in the 10th over with a couple of sixes against Unadkat. Everything was going to plan. And when the batsman got out in the next over, poor decision-making from Royals captain Sanju Samson contributed to KKR’s further acceleration.

Gill departed for a well-compiled 56 off 44 balls. By then his team had taken the game away from their opponents. Between 10 and 16 overs, KKR scored 66 runs and flattened the Royals.

Clinical bowling

Good length, cross-seam and straight – the Sharjah pitch had asked for this template. The KKR bowlers were right on the money. Shakib Al Hasan breached Yashasvi Jaiswal’s defence in the first over, as the latter went for a reverse sweep. Shivam Mavi dismissed Samson in his first ball, rolling his fingers over the seam, hitting the right length and bringing it into the batsman. Lockie Ferguson came and broke the backbone of Royals’ batting with two wickets inside three deliveries. A short, rising ball accounted for Liam Livingstone, while Anuj Rawat was trapped leg-before with a straight one. Livingstone, Jos Buttler’s replacement and the hero of The Hundred, was beaten for pace, as also Rawat.

Mavi came back and made one zip past the outside edge of Glenn Phillips’ bat to hit top of off-stump. The young fast bowler returned with his career-best IPL figures of 4/21. Ferguson bagged 3/18.

Tame sign off

Royals missed their cricketing royalty – Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Buttler – in the second phase of the tournament and hardly showed the stomach for a fight. They also missed Evin Lewis, out with a niggle, against KKR and the majority of their batsmen failed to learn from their mistakes against MI. Jaiswal tried to reverse-sweep Shakib despite the fact that a similar shot had brought about Iyer’s dismissal during KKR’s innings. Samson tried to play square of the wicket, a low-percentage shot on this surface. Their bowlers were inconsistent as well, offering width and hittable balls every now and then.

Samson using Phillips’ off-spin against Nitish Rana was poor decision-making. Rana devours slow bowling and although he got out to Phillips, 17 runs were scored in that over. The Royals skipper also dropped Rahul Tripathi off Mustafizur Rahman on five and towards the back-end of KKR’s innings conceded four byes when the bowler, Chris Morris, deserved a better effort.

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