(Cricinfo) Gautam Gambhir had hoped Kolkata Knight Riders had learned from conceding winning positions in multiple matches this season, but losing six wickets for two runs after 70% of the target of 171 had been mowed down by a century stand between himself and Robin Uthappa indicated there was still a lot of work left to do. Rajasthan Royals were the beneficiaries this time as they recorded their fourth victory in five IPL matches in Ahmedabad yesterday.
An equation of 50 from the final six overs is not cause for alarm and Knight Riders had all 10 wickets in hand, but the events that unfolded at Motera were almost unfathomable.
Shane Watson pried out Gambhir to tip the dominoes. An inexplicable promotion for Andre Russell did not last long and before the over ended three wickets were down. Pravin Tambe claimed a hat-trick off the first three balls of the next over to complete the worst collapse for the first six wickets in T20 history.
Before those nightmarish few minutes, Uthappa had cemented the team’s belief in him by melding stability and enterprise together. His fluency allowed Gambhir to work himself into form. Both batsmen embraced percentage cricket, concentrating on keeping a straight face coming down on the ball. Uthappa used his feet to bolster his hits through and over mid-on while Gambhir peppered the cover boundary. It wasn’t the most eye-catching innings but it was what Knight Riders needed from their captain and victory seemed more probable than the eventual outcome.
Suryakumar Yadav and Shakib Al Hasan were suddenly faced with a required rate over 11 in the final four overs. They swung and swiped and even enjoyed a couple of free hits but they could not muster the necessary pace. Having drained the wind from Knight Riders’ sails, Watson returned to bowl an intelligent final over to finish things off. This is the second time a week that Royals have stolen a match from under Knight Riders’ noses. Gambhir’s men couldn’t overhaul an equation of 16 of 12 and lost after the match was pushed into a Super Over.
After Royals were sent in, Karun Nair and Ajinkya Rahane found little trouble dealing with the early overs. The pitch was marked with patches of grass but no matter how much the KKR bowlers willed it, their search for movement was in vain. A few easy flicks to the square boundary on the leg side kickstarted their half-century partnership that was eventually undone by a run out. Nair’s season had begun with two single-figure scores and he had to overcome a sluggish beginning during his half-century against Delhi Daredevils. But once he did, he showcased some effective shots and today he seemed to pick up where he had left off. A second successive fifty wasn’t on the cards, though.
Sanju Samson, at No.3, ensured there was no loss in momentum with some smart shots to drive Royals past their hundred. Watson’s proclivity to hit straight down the ground hinted at a big total on the horizon. Knight Riders pulled things back in the last four overs but the 35 runs that the home side managed during that period proved more than enough.