Led by their irrepressible captain Eoin Morgan and superstar Australian pacer Pat Cummins, Kolkata Knight Riders stayed alive in the IPL with an emphatic 60-run win over Rajasthan Royals. They have still not made sure of a playoff berth, but it’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that had nothing going for them for the better part of this season. For all the glitter and promise, Royals finish in eighth spot.
Captain Morgan leads KKR’s charge
There’s a sense of uncomplicated flair that defines Eoin Morgan’s batting. Irrespective of the match situation, he always makes a conscious effort to get on top of the opposition bowling. Morgan does it not through desperate slogs and ungainly hoicks. Instead, it’s a calculated assault using his trademark cuts, sweeps and pick-up shots through the leg-side.
On Sunday, the Kolkata Knight Riders captain unfurled a typical, counter-attacking knock that took his team to a formidable score of 191/7 against Rajasthan Royals in their must-win final league encounter in Dubai. Morgan’s unbeaten 35-ball 68 was punctuated with six sixes, but it was the circumstances and the manner in which he orchestrated this knock that made it special.
The 34-year-old walked in at No.5, with his team in a spot of bother at 74/3 in the 10th over. Royals leg-spinner Rahul Tewatia had just removed Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine in the space of three deliveries. Morgan had barely settled before KKR would lose two more wickets – Rahul Tripathi and Dinesh Karthik – that left them precariously placed at 100/5 in 13 overs.
Burt buoyed by the arrival of Andre Russell, who had returned to the XI for this crucial game, Morgan unleashed himself by plundering 21 runs off Shreyas Gopal. In the subsequent over, Russell also got into the act, smoking a six and a boundary off Jofra Archer. The belligerence shifted the momentum decisively towards KKR. Russell departed after an 11-ball 25, but Morgan was determined to stay till the end. After seeing off Archer, the Irishman tore into his England team-mate Ben Stokes, ransacking three sixes in the penultimate over that not only brought up his half-century, but also put KKR in a position of ascendancy at the half-way stage.
Cummins lives up to billing
When KKR acquired Cummins at the auction for Rs 15.5 crore, it was considered money well spent, given the 27-year-old’s credentials across all formats. However, with just eight wickets from 13 matches, the Aussie had been largely subdued. All that changed in KKR’s must-win final league encounter when Cummins ran through the formidable Rajasthan Royals top order, taking four wickets in his opening three overs of high-quality pace bowling. After conceding 19 runs off the first five deliveries, Cummins dismissed Robin Uthappa.
In his subsequent over, he saw the back of Ben Stokes, thanks to a superlative flying catch by Dinesh Karthik, while RR captain Steve Smith got an inside edge back to his stumps on a delivery that cut back sharply. When Cummins had Riyan Parag caught behind defending a vicious bumper, RR were struggling at 37/5 in five overs, with a mountain to climb. With figures of 4/34, Cummins came to the party when it really mattered.
Brief scores: KKR 191/7 in 20 overs (E Morgan 68, R Tripathi 39, S Gill 36; R Tewatia 3/25) bt RR 131/9 in 20 overs (J Buttler 35, P Cummins 4/34, S Mavi 2/15, Varun C 2/20) by 60 runs
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