A terrific opening spell from Varun Aaron and a composed finish from Riyan Parag and Jofra Archer saw Rajasthan Royals edge past Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Thursday. Opting to field, Rajasthan hit Kolkata hard on a green wicket early on. Though Dinesh Karthik's brilliant 97 lifted them to a competitive total, a mature knock from Riyan Parag handed KKR their sixth consecutive game this season. Here's a look at the key moments from the match.
Varun Aaron's terrific opening spell
Varun Aaron had played only one match this season prior to this and was given just a solitary over in that game. The discarded Indian seamer leaked 16 in that over and was promptly dropped after the match. Rajasthan Royals, however, knew what they wanted from him when they picked him for the Eden Gardens wicket. With the track having a nice grass cover, Aaron's ability to seam the ball into the batsmen with his natural angle appeared to be too enticing an option to do away with.
He justified his call up to the starting XI by reducing Kolkata Knight Riders to 31 for two in five overs after being given the new ball. The Jharkhand pacer generated shape into the right handers and had Chris Lynn chopping back onto his stumps in the very first over. After his first two overs went for just three runs, Smith gave him another over upfront and he sent back Shubman Gill with a brilliant inswinger. Aaron ended his opening spell with figures of 3-1-10-2.
Russell is dropped twice but can't win the Caribbean battle
To drop Andre Russell's catch when he is in sumptuous form he is in is downright criminal. RR dropped him twice but were lucky to still get away with it. The Royals countered him with a bit of Caribbean flavour in Oshane Thomas. Playing his first IPL game, the West Indian quick was brought on soon after Russell arrived at the wicket.
The ploy seemed a deliberate one. To counter Russell's cross-batted shots with the extra pace and bounce of Thomas and Archer on the Eden wicket. Russell swung and missed one in the first over he faced from Thomas, but the second face-off between the two generated more heat. Russell looked to hoick a back of a length delivery from Thomas to the leg-side but toe-ended the ball to point where substitute fielder, Prashant Chopra, dropped a sitter.
This was the second time Russell was dropped in the innings. Earlier, Stuart Binny had let off the big West Indian hitter when he had slapped a Jofra Archer short ball to sweeper cover. Despite the two lives, Russell didn't hurt Rajasthan much with Thomas bouncing out his national teammate two balls after that Chopra dropped catch.
Dinesh Karthik's death over flourish
Having endured a tough time in the IPL so far, Dinesh Karthik exploded to life at Eden Gardens on Thursday with a sensational knock under pressure. Walking in with his side under the pump at 31 for two, Karthik took his time to settle down. In fact, he wasn't off the mark until the sixth ball he faced, and it appeared as though he was struggling to time the ball until he hit Shreyas Gopal for a six followed by a hat-trick of fours in the 11th over.
Racing past his half-century, KKR still desired a lot from Karthik to give them a chance to post a fighting total, especially with Andre Russell back in the hut. The skipper didn't disappoing as he went on a rampage against Archer and Jaydev Unadkat at the death. KKR scored 34 runs off the last two overs, 31 of them came off Karthik's bat.
Archer was hit for back to back sixes in the final two balls of the penultimate over. Karthik then dug into Unadkat's listless length deliveries in the final over and scored two sixes and a four off them. He raced from 66 to 97 in two overs as Kolkata posted a competitive total.
Sunil Narine leads KKR's fightback
After posting a par total batting first, Kolkata Knight Riders needed a strong start with the ball but their hopes were thwarted as Ajinkya Rahane came out all guns blazing alongside an equally belligerent Sanju Samson. The duo smashed 53 in the first five overs with Rahane making 34 in 19 balls probably buoyed by the confidence from a hundred last match.
Sunil Narine, who had given away just six in his first over, was persisted with for the final over of powerplay and the spinner provided the big breakthrough by trapping Rahane in front. Piyush Chawla then removed his partner, Samson, in the next over but Narine wasn't done yet. He dented Rajasthan further in his third over by cleaning up skipper Steven Smith to put Kolkata ahead. Narine went for just 10 runs in his first three overs and picked up two big wickets.
Riyan Parag's mature knock and unfortunate dismissal
17 years-year-old Riyan Parag has been a revelation this season for Rajasthan Royals. After marshalling a fairly easy run-chase against Mumbai Indians in the company of Steven Smith, young Parag was tasked with a more arduous job on Thursday against Kolkata Knight Riders. Stuck with the tail, the all-rounder had to bring Rajasthan back into the game with the required run rate soaring.
Parag was very mature in his approach and even after copping a blow on the side of his helmet from Andre Russell, he remained composed and collected. With 31 needed in three overs, he struck Prasidh Krishna for a four and a six and then hit Russell for another maximum next over to bring the equation down to 9 runs off eight balls.
Unfortunately for him, he couldn't get hold off another Russell bouncer and while attempting a pull, his bat came down on the stumps and he was out hit-wicket. The extra pace surprised him and he was late onto the shot but still he went with a full swing of the bat and ended up disturbing the stumps. While he couldn't seal the chase, Parag's 31-ball 47 had done enough to help Jofra Archer finish the game off.