Rajasthan Royals scored 28 runs in the powerplay. Kolkata Knight Riders blasted 65 in the first six overs thanks to Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine. The contrast in the powerplays, highlighted by Rajasthan Royals’ insipid display against spin contrasting with Kolkata Knight Riders’ aggressive intent, made the difference. Steve Smith smashed 73* but Lynn’s blazing 7th fifty off 32 balls and 91-run opening stand with Narine helped Dinesh Karthik’s side register a facile eight-wicket win over Ajinkya Rahane’s Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur on Sunday. With this win, Kolkata Knight Riders went to the top of the table but Rajasthan Royals’ display in their home turf will already worry the franchise as they are second from bottom.
On a pitch that assisted the spinners, Rajasthan Royals never got going against the likes of Narine, Piyush Chawla and surprisingly, Harry Gurney, who was included in the Kolkata Knight Riders side in place of Lockie Ferguson. Karthik won the toss and chose to bowl and he was immediately rewarded when Prasidh Krishna struck with his first ball and removed Rahane for 4. Jos Buttler got going with three boundaries but Kolkata Knight Riders dried the boundaries up in the next four overs, with Narine and Chawla not giving away easy runs.
Buttler and Smith tried to find the boundary but at the half-way stage, the run-rate was below six. The introduction of left-arm pacer Gurney increased Rajasthan Royals’ woes with the England pacer expertly cutting down on the pace and getting the ball to grip on this wicket. Buttler launched a six off Gurney but the in the next ball, he miscued the lofted shot and was out for 37.
Smith held firm and notched up his fifty with a couple of boundaries off Krishna but when Gurney sent back Rahul Tripathi (6), Rajasthan Royals lost momentum. Ben Stokes swung and miss and failed to back-up Smith, who tried to attack by hammering Narine over deep midwicket for a six. Stokes struggled for 14 balls and managed just seven runs as Rajasthan Royals managed just 36 runs in the last five overs to reach 139/3.
In response, Narine and Lynn capitalised on the powerplay. The left-hander pummeled Krishnappa Gowtham for four boundaries and a six in one over and the 22-run overlaid the platform for Kolkata Knight Riders to dictate terms to the opposition. They were also aided by some good fortune in the fourth over bowled by Dhawal Kulkarni. Narine was deceived by a slower ball from Kulkarni and he chipped it to the leg side only for Tripathi to drop the catch. Next ball, Kulkarni got a ball to jag back in and Lynn was beaten. The ball hit the stump, the bail lit up but was not dislodged. With luck not going Rajasthan Royals' way, Kolkata Knight Riders took the attack to the bowlers.
Narine and Lynn regularly found the boundaries and did not allow the run-rate to dip below 10. The West Indies all-rounder looked set for another aggressive fifty but he edged a googly from Shreyas Gopal to be out caught for 47.
Lynn reached his fifty but on the next ball, he was out caught at deep backward square leg by Gopal. It made no difference to the ultimate result as Robin Uthappa slammed two sixes and the end came via a wide from Stokes. It was an anti-climatic end to a dominant performance, a performance that has enabled the side to go on top. Kolkata Knight Riders managed to win this without Andre Russell’s contribution and that will boost their confidence even higher. For Rajasthan Royals, their performance in their ‘fortress’ has raised a lot of uncomfortable questions.