Jaipur: It was a night to forget for the Knights.
After the high of the inaugural match of IPL-VI against Delhi DareDevils, the Kolkata Knight Riders were pegged back by a determined Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, here on Monday. And deservingly, Rahul Dravid and his bravehearts won the match by 19 runs.
Chasing Royals score of 144 for six, the defending champions began well taking 13 runs off Sreesanth's first over. But Shaun Tait pulled it back in the second over itself conceding just four runs. After that, there was no looking back for the Royals.
The wicket had a fair sprinkling of grass and the hosts made the most of it as the defending champions folded up for 125 in 19 overs.
Medium pacer Siddharth Trivedi proved to be the trump card as he snared three wickets for 23 runs. But it was Tait who sent a chill down the Knights' spine. The Australian bowled the fastest ball of IPL-VI so far when his delivery to Gautam Gambhir touched 150.1 kmph mark. Considering the energy-sapping weather and the Indian conditions it was a remarkable effort.
Overall, it was a story of tight and intelligent bowling from both the sides in front of a capacity crowd .
While the KKR bowlers did an excellent job in containing the batsmen after Gambhir elected to field, the Royals bowlers returned with same vigour and enthusiasm to pay back in the same coin.
While Trivedi led the show, Rahul Shukla and Kevon Cooper also captured two wickets each. Truly, the all-pace attack of Dravid was too hot for the Knights.
The visitors' backbone was broken in the third and seventh over. While Shukla consumed Manvinder Bisla (1) and Jacques Kallis (0) off successive balls in the third over, Trivedi struck the vital blows by removing Manoj Tiwary (14) and Gambhir (22) in the seventh.
Thereafter, the Knights batsmen were simply playing for a lost cause. Eoin Morgan did raise some hopes with a solid knock of 51 with the help of three fours and three spectacular sixes but that was not enough to bring the team out of the pits.
Pity, the Knight Riders defeat came on a day when their bowlers did everything to prove how right their captain's decision to bowl first was. Off-spinner Sunil Narine (2 for 28) was once again the wrecker-in-chief as he broke Royals' backbone with a double strike in the 16th over.
Having been checkmated in the initial stage by the tightfisted Knight bowlers, the home team were hoping to recover in the slog overs but the West Indian had other plans.
Narine, who bowled only one over in the first 10 overs, struck his first blow in the second ball of the 16th over when he had Ajinkya Rahane (36) caught behind.
Two balls later, wicketkeeper Bisla once again worked in tandem with Narine to stump Kevon Cooper (0). The loss of Rahane was a blow to Royals as the opener was the only batsman looked capable of taking the fight to the rival camp.
But for the 10 runs that Narine conceded in the last two balls, the spinner would have returned to the pavilion with a more impressive figure.
Yagnik spoiled Narine's figure with a six and a four of successive balls in the 19th over. In fact, this over produced 16 runs that did make a difference in the result of the match in the end.
But then, Narine was not solely responsible for Royals' downfall. In opting to bowl first, Knight Riders stuck to a definite plan and were able to keep the home team under check from the beginning. While Gambhir rotated his bowlers, using five of them in the first eight overs, Royals could hardly get going. The loss of Shane Watson's wicket early in the innings was the beginning of their problems.
A lot more was expected from Watson (5). Among the Royals batsmen, he received the loudest cheers from the fans when he came out to open the innings. However, he didn't last beyond the third over. After hitting an authentic boundary off Brett Lee, the Aussie opener was caught by Morgan at extra cover in the next delivery.
Lee, in fact, did a fine job in the initial overs. In the last match at Eden Gardens, he conceded too many runs. But here, he bowled with good pace and accuracy. In his first three overs, Lee conceded only 13 runs. He finished with an impressive figure of one for 20.
Gambhir handled his bowlers well and some of his moves produced instant results. He brought in Rajat Bhatia in the eighth over and the Delhi bowler got rid of Dravid (17) in his fifth ball.
It was a straight delivery and found the gap between the bat and the pad. Though Bhatia's celebrations looked bit exaggerated, it was definitely the wicket the Knight Riders were looking for.
Related reports, card: Page 14