Kuldeep helps KKR close in on playoff spot

The chinaman bowler claims four for 20 as Kolkata Knight Riders collects its seventh win, defeating Rajasthan Royals by six wickets.

Kuldeep Yadav registered his best figures this season to lay the foundation for Kolkata Knight Riders’ comfortable win.   -  K. R. Deepak

Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav struck form at the right time to achieve his season-best figures of four for 20 as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) outplayed Rajasthan Royals (RR) by six wickets to move closer to securing a berth in the playoffs of the Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens here on Tuesday.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball updates

Inserted in, RR found Kuldeep too hot to handle and wasted a bright start to manage 142 in 19 overs. KKR batted sensibly to reach the target in 18 overs.

Explosive start

RR had an explosive start with batting mainstay Jos Buttler and his opening partner Rahul Tripathi ruthless and aggressive in their cameos. Young KKR pacer Shivam Mavi returned to start promisingly before the Indo-English pair went berserk to plunder 57 runs in the next three overs. Both Tripathi (27 off 15) and Buttler (39 off 22) improvised to spoil the KKR bowlers’ plan of keeping it tight.

 

Tripathi made room to gather three fours and a six off Prasidh Krishna’s first over costing 19, while Buttler, showcasing a terrific combination of class and creativity, pummelled Mavi for 4, 6, 4, 4, 6, 4 to garner 28.

Rescue-man Sunil Narine's opening over cost 10 runs, but the Trinidad spinner used his subtle variation to play a key role in KKR's tremendous fightback.

Narine, who removed Sanju Samson, got fine support from fellow West Indian pacer Andre Russell, who mixed up his deliveries to provide the breakthrough. He snared Tripathi off a rising ball, in the fifth over.

Kuldeep chips away

Kuldeep was encouraged by the gift from RR skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who was bowled while trying a reverse sweep a googly pitched on the leg stump, in his first over. Bowling uninterruptedly, Kuldeep, who had a lean phase of late, notched up a wicket each in his remaining three overs; he sent back Buttler, who was also out to a reverse sweep, Stokes and Stuart Binny to break RR's backbone.

How they fared

- The top buy - Ben Stokes (RR) scored 11 off 13 balls and took three wickets for 15 runs in his four overs. His wickets were the top three in the KKR line-up - Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa.

- The young gun - Shubman Gill (KKR) didn't get to bat.

RR lost its next six wickets for 31 runs but scored 142, thanks to Jaydev Unadkat’s cameo of 18-ball 26.

Lynn, Karthik see KKR through

With Narine clubbing K. Gowtham for 21 runs, including two fours and as many sixes, in the first over, KKR was off to a rollicking start in its reply. However, Stokes' well-directed pace not only fetched two quick wickets, Narine and Uthappa, but also applied brakes on KKR.

Ish Sodhi bowled tidy lines and claimed a dangerous looking Nitish Rana as RR showed some grit in trying to defend its modest total. Nevertheless, Chris Lynn, before being Stokes' third victim, restricted his flamboyance for a 42-ball 45, including five well-placed fours and a six off Jofra Archer, and captain Dinesh Karthik scored a responsible 41 not out off 31, containing five fours and the winning six, to help KKR record its seventh victory.

In terms of playoff qualification, Kolkata Knight Riders needed a strong finish at Eden Gardens and it helped itself to one against a team (Rajasthan Royals) also competing to reach the playoffs.

Starting the day third on table but with a negative net run rate (-0.18), KKR was sensible to opt to bowl first. Led by Kuldeep Yadav, who picked four for 20, it bowled Rajasthan out for 142 and chased down the target in 18 overs. Thereby, it not only got two vital points but also improved its net run rate to -0.09.

What it needs to do: KKR's final league fixture is against table-topping Sunrisers Hyderabad and, despite having 14 points to its name, it ideally needs to win against Kane Williamson and co. to secure a playoff spot. KKR will keep a close eye on tomorrow's match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab: a loss for Mumbai will almost take it out of contention, while a Punjab loss will make qualification difficult for R. Ashwin and co. despite having 12 points with a match left. Bottom line is, Knight Riders is well-placed to progress after putting back to back wins.

Rajasthan was fourth and, like KKR, had 12 points. But it had a worse net run rate (-0.34) and a loss has made qualification difficult.

What it needs to do: A net run rate of -0.40 means a win alone against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 4pm match on Saturday (May 19), before Knight Riders faces Sunrisers, won't suffice. At this point, of all the contenders, Rajasthan finds itself in the most difficult situation.