Kolkata: Skipper Ajinkya Rahane' slow batting cost Rajasthan dearly as two-time champions Kolkata comfortably beat them by 25 runs in the Eliminator to set-up the IPL Qualifier-II clash with SRH on Wednesday.
On a day KKR star spinner Sunil Narine was expensive and returned wicket-less, the likes of Piyush Chawla, Prasidh Krishna and Kuldeep Yadav stepped up to restrict Rajasthan 144 for four after batsmen put on board 169 for seven.
Home skipper Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell had revived KKR with their magnificent batting as the hosts recovered from a disastrous start. They had their worst start of the season with K Gowtham (2/15) and Jofra Archer (2/33) reducing them to 46 for three inside the Powerplay overs.
Karthik continued his sublime form to lead them to safety with a 38-ball 52, containing four fours and two sixes while Russell came up with his destructive 29-ball unbeaten 49, studded with three boundaries and five sixes to propel the side to a fighting total.
Royals began their chase in right earnest with Rahane (46 off 41) and Rahul Tripathi (20) adding 47 runs for the first wicket. Sanju Samson played a smart inning of 50 runs from 38 balls but leg-spinner Piyush Chawla removed Tripathi and Samson to tilt the match in the hosts' favour.
Rahane batted too slow, playing a lot of dot balls, and the asking rate kept mounting. When Rahane departed it was tough ask for the batsmen at the crease. Rahane got 22 runs from five boundaries but consumed 36 balls for remaining 24 runs. Kuldeep foxed the RR skipper with a googly, before Chawla removed an anxious Samson in his last over.
Their equation was still within reach with 43 runs and seven wickets in hand in last three overs but the young pacer Krishna gave away just three runs in the 18th over to tilt the match in their favour. It was a lacklustre from the RR middle order batsmen as Kolkata reigned supreme at the death to advance to Qualifier Two for the second time in as many seasons.
Kolkata will face Hyderabad in the virtual semifinal round on May 25.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (c), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R. Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi, Tom Curran.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (C), Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi, D Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
(With PTI inputs)