Rajhastan Royals moved level with Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings at the top of the IPL table after a hugely exciting 10-run win over the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Royals captain Shane Watson was looking for his side to continue the good form shown against Delhi Daredevils, where Karun Nair was in inspirational form.
Ajinkya Rahane and Nair both opened their accounts in the best possible with boundaries and continued to push the scoreboard along in the early stages.
Kolkata’s fourth over was particularly expensive, Suryakumar Yadav going for 12, including a monstrous six from Rahane.
|Rajhastan Royals 170/6|
|AM Rahane||run out (Narine)||30||22||3/1|
|KK Nair||st Uthappa b Al Hasan||44||35||4/1|
|SV Samson||c Pandey b Narine||37||31||3/0|
|SR Watson||c SA Yandev b Narine||31||20||2/2|
|STR Binny||c ten Doeschate b Vinay Kumar||11||9||0/1|
|SPD Smith||c SA Yadav b Vinay Kumar||3||2||0/0|
|JP Faulkner||not out||1||1||0/0|
|R Bhatia||not out||6||1||0/1|
|Extras||lb 3, w 3, nb 1|
|Total||6 wickets, 20 overs||170|
|Shakib Al Hasan||4||1||25|
|RN ten Doeschate||2||0||14|
Gautam Gambhir changed the point of attack, Shakib Al Hasan coming in, but he too was hit all around the ground. Two fours from Nair took the Royals to a decent 50 for no wicket after the power play.
Any joy was short-lived as just three balls later Rahane went looking for a quick single that was never there, and a direct hit from Sunil Narine took him out.
Nair continued to look dangerous as he was joined at the crease by Sanju Samson, although the run-rate slowed significantly during the next few overs. Whilst both batsmen looked comfortable at the crease, some inspired bowling by Yadav, Al Hasan and Ryan ten Doeschate, restricted the Royals to singles and the odd two. One boundary in the next four overs tells it’s own story.
Nair looked well set for a second-successive 50 but Al Hasan’s beautiful delivery tempted the batsman way out of the crease and Robin Uthappa’s lightning-quick reflexes had him stumped before he had a chance to recover.
After a slow start, Watson began to get in amongst the runs with successive boundaries for Vinay Kumar’s slack line and length. Another six saw 19 racked up from the over.
Just as Samson was beginning to close in on a half century himself, Narine tempted him to fire a ball straight to Manish Pandey at deep mid-wicket.
The last two overs were a real cat-and-mouse affair. 20 runs scored to take the Royals to a decent 170, but at the expense of three very late wickets including two in the last three balls.
Kumar ended the innings on a hat-trick after removing Steven Smith and Stuart Binny, and he can be satisfied with his afternoon’s work.
Set 171 to chase, the Knight Riders began in a reasonable fashion, and Uthappa took advantage of some wayward bowling from Watson in the third over hitting him for 13.
The batsmen quickly took the scoreboard up, as Pravin Tambe was subjected to the same treatment.
|Kolkata Knight Riders 160/6|
|RV Uthappa||c Bhatia b Watson||65||52||5/3|
|G Gambhir||c Samson b Watson||54||34||6/1|
|AD Russell||b Watson||1||3||0/0|
|MK Pandey||st Samson b Tambe||0||0||0/0|
|S Al Hasan||not out||21||14||1/1|
|YK Pathan||c&B Tambe||0||1||0/0|
|RN ten Doeschate||lbw b Tambe||0||1||0/0|
|SA Yadav||not out||9||17||0/0|
|Extras||lb 5, w 3, nb 2||10|
|Total||6 wickets, 20 overs||160|
Gambhir continued to provide assistance at the crease and his two boundaries off of Tim Southee in the sixth meant that the Knight Riders also ended the power play at 50 for no wicket.
So far so good.
Despite Watson regularly changing the bowling attack, there was little to trouble either Gambhir or Uthappa.
Deliberate and studious stroke play from both saw them reach the tenth over without loss. Uthappa the brought up his 50 with the first ball of the next over, a wonderfully time six over long off.
Although Tambe managed to keep the big hits down conceding just five from the twelfth over, the signs began to look ominous as the 100 partnership was passed with ease during the next over.
Gambhir sailed to his half century via a fine boundary, a hit which ensured the Knight Riders highest ever opening partnership. Perhaps the ease with which the openers were strolling about the crease was gave way to over-confidence.
Watson decided to take matters into his own hands and removed Gambhir with the first ball of his next spell, Samson with a superb diving catch.
The Austrailian certainly wasn’t hanging about as Uthappa was account for just two balls later and then unbelievably Andre Russell bowled two balls after that. What a spell of bowling from Watson!
All of a sudden there was a very much different complexion on the match, 121 for 0, becoming 122 for 3 in the space of six balls.
The collapse continued in the next over. If things were good for the Royals after Watson’s timely intervention, they were positively magnificent by the end of the next over.
Tambe had the whole stadium rocking as first Manish Pandey was stumped by Samson, Yusuf Pathan was caught and bowled next ball and then ten Doeschate was accounted for lbw. A stunning hat-trick that put Royals in sight of victory, and given the stumping, quite unique as noted by cricket statistician Mohandas Menon:
KKR were left shell-shocked and needed a calming influence to guide them through the final few overs.
Al Hasan and Yadav provided it. Two boundaries and some sharp singles left the batsmen needing 17 from the final over to take the win.
Watson again took centre-stage and after overstepping (for a free hit) and a leg bye, two sixes would send the game into a super over. It was not to be as Watson provided a captain's over to see his side home.
Per IPLT20.com, Watson noted:
Pravin Tambe is amazing, he just keeps going and gets huge wickets. I think he should get a pay rise as he is making my life easier for sure. Things definitely went my way in that over, I hadn't had much of an impact with the ball, so it was good to get those wickets.
The loss keeps the Knight Riders marooned on four points with Kevin Pietersen's Delhi Daredevils, currently on four points themselves, the next opponents.
Before that fixture, bottom-of-the-table Mumbai Indians, high on confidence after their stunning win at Kings XI Punjab, take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Another win will see them join the Knight Riders and Daredevils on four points.
Gautam Gambhir must therefore look to quickly restore confidence and hope that the loss has no long-lasting effects.
Watson has no such worries, the win given them 10 points to bring them level at the top of the table.
The next two fixtures are eminently winnable ones and with the top two playing each other in their next fixture, the Royals stand to benefit.