For all the changes rung in thick and fast by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) game after game in this Indian Premier League, it’s their two constant faces that stood up to finally snap an alarming five-match losing streak on Monday. (Follow IPL 2022 full coverage)
A 60-run stand between Nitish Rana (48 not out, 37b) and captain Shreyas Iyer (34, 32b) brought calm to a jittery batting line-up on a tricky Wankhede Stadium pitch and against a high-quality Rajasthan Royals (RR) attack. Rinku Singh’s 23-ball 42 (6×4, 1×6) was just the kind of impetus a 153-run chase required as KKR pulled off a seven-wicket win after a typically woeful start.
Having dropped Venkatesh Iyer, KKR’s sixth different opening combination in as many games went much like the preceding five—leaving a job to do for the others. Aaron Finch played on a Kuldeep Sen length delivery while Baba Indrajith top-edged a pull off Prasidh Krishna. At 32/2 after six overs, it was the same old wobbly batting story for KKR.
Iyer and left-hander Rana took it upon themselves to steady it by eliminating risk for the next four overs. Rana then targetted R Ashwin, a sweeping six sandwiched by two reverse-hit fours in a 16-run 11th over. Just as KKR began to flex muscles, the skipper gloved Trent Boult down the leg to RR counterpart Sanju Samson, who reviewed it.
Rana though stayed put, while Rinku came in and flew. A casual flick off the legs to smack Sen for six, a hook off Krishna for four—Rinku was serving it all. With 31 needed off 18, the two calmly finished the job to hand RR, frustrated more by the wides given by the umpire in the 19th, their second straight loss.
Jos Buttler’s blazing form has meant fellow opener Devdutt Padikkal’s lack of a big knock hasn’t pinched RR much. The left-hander couldn’t get going, an attempt to work a full ball to leg ending up as a sharp catch for bowler Umesh Yadav in a wicket-maiden third over.
Samson has been quick off the blocks in this IPL, and it was no different on Monday. He smacked a couple of fours and a lovely lofted six over cover to awaken the RR innings in a largely passive 38-run powerplay. Usually when Buttler is around after the field restrictions, his attacking prowess touches incredible levels. That didn’t happen for the season’s leading scorer, who was kept quiet by disciplined KKR bowling. It was the kind of innings where two of his three fours came because Sunil Narine did not bend to stop the ball while fielding.
When Buttler fell for a 25-ball 22 in the ninth over by Tim Southee after a nicely-timed jump by Shivam Mavi at log-on, RR were in a fix. More so as just before that over, Samson received lengthy treatment from the physio. With Buttler gone and Samson’s stroke-making impacted by a troublesome back, RR didn’t get the middle-overs kick that Buttler has invariably given them. Samson, who was 21 off 15 after the powerplay, reached his second fifty of this IPL but took 34 balls to score his remaining 33 runs.
Karun Nair (13, 13b) and Riyan Parag (19, 12b) couldn’t provide impetus to the innings. That was left for Shimron Hetmyer to do, who only walked in with three overs left and walked back after hitting two consecutive sixes off Southee and one four in a 13-ball unbeaten 27. Not too little but certainly too late.