SUMMARY: Something extraordinary occured at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium today. The Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders both played five seamers each today on what was a green pitch – something unheard of in the IPL. The teams read the pitch correctly, but only Rajasthan batted sensibly, winning by 19 runs after being asked to bat first. A costly over by Sunil Narine at the end of Rajasthan’s innings made a big difference while meaty contributions from Ajinkya Rahane and Brad Hodge lifted the score to 144-6.
Kolkata could never get their chase up to speed. While a calm-headed 51 by Eoin Morgan took them close, they failed to get string together partnerships. Kevon Cooper, Siddharth Trivedi and Rahul Shukla blew a big hole through the Kolkata line-up, settling the game well before the final wicket was taken.
THE COVER DRIVE: Ajinkya Rahane got out to a couple of rash shots on his Test debut recently. But he possess a drop dead gorgeous extra-cover drive. In the recent T20 series against Pakistan, he took a step forward to Saeed Ajmal and deposited him far beyond extra cover for one of the most effortless sixes you’ll see. Today, he brought out that shot again, this time against Shami Ahmed. Ball on driving length, front foot forward, bat meets ball, ball lands in the stands. Not a bad skill to have.
WATSON FAILS: The IPL would be the third trip to India that the Australian all-rounder has made this summer, and he has failed to get his freak on. Failures in the Tests and his problems with Michael Clarke are now a thing of the past. Now at the IPL, he’s be one of Rajasthan Royals’ key players. But he failed in first game, tamely chipping Brett Lee to cover having made just 5.
YAGNIK IMPRESSES: There’s no lack of self belief in the Rajasthan wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik. Last year, he walked out to face Dale Steyn in the final over of an IPL game with Rajasthan needing eight runs in four balls. He tapped the world’s best pace bowler for consecutive fours through the cover like it was no big deal. Today, with the rest of his mates struggling to decode the mystery spin of Sunil Narine, Yagnik thumped him for a four and a six in his final over – runs that made a big difference in the final analysis. A slog over midwicket was followed by a clever reverse sweep. Yagnik backed his runs up with his neat wicketkeeping: he took three catches, including a tremendous one flying to his left to dismiss Gautam Gambhir.
A HANDY COMBINATION: Kevon Cooper, he of the extraordinary IPL debut last year, Siddharth Trivedi, now the most-capped Rajasthan player, and Rahul Shukla, who is a bundle of raw energy, are quickly turning to be the best middle overs pace combination of the IPL. Add to this troika the untamed pace of Shaun Tait, the explosive unpredictability of Sreesanth, and the experience of Shane Watson. What we have here is a winning combination.
Shukla kicked in the door today with the wickets of Manvinder Bisla (bowled due to his extra pace) and Jacques Kallis (caught behind for a golden duck – would you believe that?). Trivedi, whose 61st game it was in the IPL, slowed down the pace with his mix of cutters – something which Cooper did too. The formidable Kolkata middle order of Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Rajat Bhatia combined just 26 runs between them. That is where Kolkata lost the game. The question is how many more giants are Rajasthan going to slay?
SHOT OF THE DAY