New Delhi: Riding on a superb bowling display from Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who returned with matchwinning figures of 4/20, hosts KKR reached closer to qualifying for the IPL playoffs with a 6-wicket win over RR at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
Having got RR out at 142, KKR stuttered at times but remained steady to overhaul the target in 18 overs. Chris Lynn (45) and Dinesh Karthik (31 not out) ensured they took their time in the middle and batted out their way to the victory. Ben Stokes picked up three wickets but an average total meant RR did not have the cushion to defend it.
With this victory, KKR have collected 14 points but will stay on the third spot. RR, on the other hand, will also stay on the fourth spot.
Earlier, until the start of the eighth over in the RR innings, the visitors were cruising at supersonic speeds. They broke the sound barrier twice thanks to Jos Buttler's and Rahul Tripathi's assault in the 2nd and 3rd overs, collecting 47 runs in two overs to take RR to 74/1 after 7 overs.
Jos Buttler took off in a similar vein and smashed Shivam Mavi for 28 runs mixing innovation with power. Tripathi too came up with a cameo but gloved a bouncer in the end. After such a rousing start, which took RR to 68/1 in 6 overs, it was expected that RR will accumulate in access of 200 easily.
But then came the crash. A fatal crash for RR. Owing to a few wrong decisions by their batsmen, their ship came tumbling down. And all of that in the space of just 6 overs. KKR spinner Kuldeep Yadav picked four wickets in his quota trading just 20 runs to ensure the hosts clawed back. Sunil Narine responded immediately with a wicket from the other end and KKR had their sights set on their seventh win.
For Kuldeep, the IPL hasn't been an overwhelming one so far. He has been economical according to T20 standards but hasn't been among wickets. In the match against MI, he was hit for 43. But before the start of play on Tuesday, Kuldeep was seen flighting the ball and getting back to his strengths as a Chinaman.
In T20 format, a bowler tends to get into experimentation and more so if one experiences an off-day. Kuldeep too was adding yards to his deliveries, killing all the loop and deception. The batsmen, as a result, lined him up and milked him without much fuss.
But on Tuesday, call it wise thinking or the need of the hour, Kuldeep went back in time and came out the old loopy Kuldeep he was. He bowled slower, gave the ball air making sure the flight was over the eye level of the batsmen. His first dismissal was that of Ajinkya Rahane, who displayed a poor shot selection and was castled playing a reverse sweep. Unable to keep abreast of the pace at which RR were cruising, Rahane fell looking to score of an unorthodox approach.
While that should have been alarming for RR, but they kept the cruise mode on and opted to keep going. It led to a series of poor shot selections and the consequences were in front of them to witness.
Kuldeep soon consumed Jos Buttler, interestingly playing the reverse sweep of a quicker delivery. From 74/1 in 7 overs, RR were 92/3 in 10 overs. RR were in a spot of bother and had certainly pegged themselves back.
Narine struck from the other end and consumed Sanju Samson off a successful LBW review. 96/4. The slowness of the pitch helped the spinners to enjoy turn.
Then Kuldeep, exuding confidence, produced the best ball of his quota as he flummoxed Stuart Binny with a brilliant googly. The ball came out off the back of the hand but Binny, unable to pick it up from the hand, was drawn into the drive and missed it completely. Dinesh Karthik clipped the bails in a flash. 100/5.
There were expectations from Ben Stokes but against spin, he has been a sitting duck. Kuldeep kept reducing his speed, pitched it up and waited for Stokes to err. And he erred. Bowling round the stumps, Kuldeep bowled a loopy legspinner and Stokes returned a simple catch back looking to work it on the leg side.
Having started so well, RR suffered a slide and fell like a bunch of cards. Where RR would have been looking at at least 200, Kuldeep proved to be the tormentor and RR were left to rue a great start, getting out on 142.