Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine blow away sluggish Rajasthan Royals
Kolkata Knight Riders 140 for 2 (Lynn 50, Narine 47, Gopal 2-35) beat Rajasthan Royals 139 for 3 (Smith 73*, Buttler 37, Gurney 2-25) by eight wickets. Rajasthan Royals paid the price for turgid innings, on what Kolkata Knight Riders proved was a very good batting track. Despite losing only three wickets, and having had a second-wicket partnership worth 72, Royals mustered only 139 for 3 in their 20 overs. No team in IPL history has made a poorer score for the loss of three wickets or less.
Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes just could not get going in this match. They faced 34 and 14 balls respectively, but neither could strike at more than 110. Only Steven Smith managed a half-decent output, scoring 73 not out off 59 deliveries. Even that is not exactly a stellar innings, though. In response, Knight Riders were brutal. Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn blazed through the opening overs, hitting 65 off the Powerplay for no loss. Narine had 47 off 25 balls when he was dismissed, but with the score at 91 in the ninth over, the result was almost a foregone conclusion. Lynn hit 50 off 32 and was the other batsman to be dismissed in Knight Riders’ chase. Robin Uthappa eased the team to the victory with a 26 not out off 16 balls. They had a whopping 37 balls remaining when a wide from Stokes sealed the result.
A third of the deliveries Sunil Narine delivered were dot balls. Piyush Chawla was even better – 13 of his 24 balls were dots. It is not as if Royals did not venture big shots off them. These bowlers were just too good, beating the Royals top order in the air as well as off the pitch. Harry Gurney was outstanding in his first IPL match this season as well, conceding only three from the 16th over, and only eight from the 20th, despite giving away a four to Steven Smith. Although Smith would eventually muster 73 off 59, his batting in the early overs was perhaps more suited to ODIs than T20s. He was on 39 off 40 at one stage, for example, despite never appearing to be in any particular discomfort at the crease. Smith was a little more adventurous in the last six overs of the innings. But more risks earlier on from a set batsman might have set Royals on track to a competitive score.
Smith made 34 off the last 19 balls, but despite the fact that Royals had lost only two wickets going into the death, there was a woeful lack of intent at the other end. Looking back on that finish, it seems likely that Royals misread the pitch, and believed a low score to be defendable. Ben Stokes, for example, took a few deliveries to play himself in, rather than attempting boundaries from the outset. When he did later try to go big, the Knight Riders bowlers outwitted him, restricting him to a sorry 7 off 14 balls. Rahul Tripathi fared little better. His 6 came off 8 balls before Gurney had him caught.
Tripathi had one more regretful moment in the game – when he dropped Sunil Narine for 23 in the fourth over, allowing the Knight Riders opener to continue lavishly swinging his bat. Next ball, Dhawal Kulkarni grazed Chris Lynn’s leg stump, but although the bails lit up, they did not dislodge, and the batsman was free to continue. The Knight Riders openers rode those gigantic slices of luck to a match-winning opening stand. Narine was the more aggressive of the two, hitting 47 off 25 at a strike rate of 188, hitting three sixes. Lynn was hot on his heels, making 50 off 32 in the end, launching three sixes himself. When Narine was eventually caught at slip off the bowling of Shreyas Gopal in the ninth over, Knight Riders only needed 49 off 69 balls to win. In the end, it was a cakewalk.