Rajasthan Royals crashed out of IPL 2018 after Kolkata Knight Riders staged a late comeback with bat and ball to gift themselves a qualifier spot against Sunrisers Hyderabad at home. Rocked early with the bat, Kolkata were in dire straits at 24/3 before Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill and Andre Russell took them to a more than fighting total of 169.
Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi and Sanju Samson got Rajasthan off to a perfect start in the run chase but Samson's wicket proved to be detrimental as the visitors struggled to gather enough momentum to disrupt Kolkata's surge. Eventually they fell well short leaving Sunrisers Hyderabad to face a rejuvenated KKR side in the dusty bowls of Eden on Friday.
The last time these two teams met at Kolkata, Krishnappa Gowtham's first four balls after opening the attack read 6, 4, 6, 4. A rampant Sunil Narine sent Gowtham to the cleaners with his ferocious striking and gave Kolkata a memorable boost early in the game.
Gowtham has been one of the best spinners in the powerplay overs this IPL and although most expected Rahane to give Jofra Archer a go at Narine early at Eden on Wednesday, he persisted with Gowtham.
The off-spinner was slashed through cover for four first ball to evoke memories of a repeat performance. The Rajasthan spinner, though, stayed composed and spun one past Narine next ball as the batsman looked to step out. Heinrich Klaasen completed the stumping to leave Kolkata bruising early.
Russell’s perfect tennis smash
For Andre Russell the pitch barely matters. His mantra is to go hard no matter what and against a steaming Jofra Archer, Russell showed why his methods could be effective. He had injected some fire into Kolkata's batting with his volley of attacks on Rajasthan bowlers but a fearsome strike off Jofra Archer in the penultimate over stood out.
Archer bowled a back of a hand slower bouncer that rose up off the surface at an uncomfortable height. Already positioned to swat the ball into the square leg stands, Russell noticed that the ball was late to arrive and switched his shot. He served out a dose of Andy Roddick to Jofra Archer, smashing the daylight out of the ball with a tennis forehand swat over long-off. He couldn't quite middle the shot with the ball slayed off the bottom part of the bat but it barely mattered with his brute power. The ball sailed into the stands as Archer watched in despair.
Karthik’s 61m six
The monster in Dinesh Karthik has well and truly awoken and a pumped up performance in the season so far has only underlined this fact. He has been mesmerising in run chases, standing as a roadblock between opposition and victory with his astute judgement of situations and perfect manipulation of the same.
On Wednesday, Karthik had to play a different kind of innings with Kolkata three down within four overs without a great run rate on board. He not only had to salvage the innings but also infuse some momentum into it and being in insanely good form, Karthik did the same alongside a trusted ally in Shubman Gill.
With him on 44, Karthik was given Jaydev Unadkat's uninspiring half trackers to deal with and the batsman responded by moving outside his off-stump and hoicking across the line. He couldn't quite get a good piece of wood on the ball and the top edge was found. But it sailed well over the keeper's head and landed outside the ropes for a 61m six. With boundaries nowhere close to that years ago, all batsmen need to do is to ensure they go hard at the ball.
Prasidh Krishna's 3 run over
43 needed off the last three overs is no longer an improbable statistic in cricket. Teams have time and again chased down targets from similar situations this IPL and there was no reason Rajasthan couldn't pull off the same. Just the other night a Faf du Plessis-led Chennai Super Kings had scaled down the target with the very same equation before them.
Dinesh Karthik turned to young Prasidh Krishna, who has spearheaded Kolkata's bowling attack for the majority of the season to bring Rajasthan's hopes to a halt and ,boy, didn't he!
He brought out a slew of variations to leave the Rajasthan batsmen grappling on a sluggish wicket. A slower ball well outside off-stump was missed by Heinrich Klaasen and Prasidh followed it up with a skiddish short ball that the South African dragged away for two. A pinpoint yorker followed which Klaasen could only squeeze out for a single.
Prasidh was left to bowl at Stuart Binny and decided to test his finishing skills. A searing yorker was followed by a short ball and Binny remained on zero after failing to take runs off either. With pressure mounting, Binny smacked a low full toss dipping late on him straight to square leg and ended his disastrous stay at the wicket. Prasidh completed a spectacular three run over that all but sealed Rajasthan's tournament hopes.