x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indian Premier League: Eoin Morgan effort not enough as Kolkata go down to Rajasthan

On a pitch with a greenish tinge, Rajasthan Royals swept aside Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending league champions, by 19 runs to register their second consecutive win in the IPL.

Rajasthan Royals batsman Brad Hodge plays a shot during the IPL tournament in 2012 against Kings XI Punjab. AFP
Rajasthan Royals batsman Brad Hodge plays a shot during the IPL tournament in 2012 against Kings XI Punjab. AFP

On a pitch with a greenish tinge, Rajasthan Royals swept aside Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending league champions, by 19 runs to register their second consecutive win in the IPL.

Eoin Morgan's 38-ball 51 gave them a scare, but none of the other Kolkata batsmen delivered in conditions that demanded patience and application. At 56 for six after 11 overs, chasing 145, the game looked over, but Morgan kept a vociferous crowd on edge until the penultimate over.

It came as no surprise when Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata captain, asked Rajasthan to bat first. Brett Lee vindicated the decision in the very first over, getting the ball to swing prodigiously. But despite the bowlers thriving in favourable conditions, the architect of Rajasthan's victory was Brad Hodge, who set things up with a crafty unbeaten 42, coming in at No 5.

He quietly worked his way in with ones and twos before exploding in the last two overs. The cause was further helped by Dishant Yagnik's cameo of 16, which gave Rajasthan 144 for six in 20 overs.

Shane Watson's much anticipated return was the talking point in the build-up to the game, but the hype lasted all of 10 deliveries before Lee dismissed his countryman in the third over.

Rahul Dravid played one exquisite cover-drive off Jacques Kallis, but could not replicate the same level of authority he displayed in the opening game.

Ajinkya Rahane built the foundation with a solid 36 that featured three fours and a six. Sunil Narine, who stalled Rajasthan's progress in the middle by picking up two wickets, outfoxed him, and it needed Hodge's late flourish to take Rajasthan to a competitive total.

With Sreesanth and Shaun Tait also in the side, Rajasthan opted for an all-pace attack, unheard of in Indian conditions. They found an unlikely hero in Rahul Shukla, the 22-year-old seamer from Jharkhand. He struck twice in his opening over, including the prized scalp of Kallis for a first-ball duck as Kolkata were reduced to 20 for two.

Shukla's double strike galvanised Rajasthan, and the mantle was then passed on to Siddharth Trivedi, who picked up three wickets, including that of Gambhir (22), brilliantly caught behind after a reckless stroke.

Rajat Bhatia, a veteran of the domestic scene, provided a glimmer of hope, but when his well-timed pull found the deep midwicket fielder, there was an air of inevitability about Kolkata's slump.

Morgan, who struck three sixes, finally fell to Kevon Cooper, leaving 35,000 spectators to soak in another memorable victory.

 

Shashank Kishore is a sub-editor with Wisden India.

 

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