A valiant half century from Eoin Morgan was not enough as the Rajasthan Royals beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by 19 runs in their Pepsi IPL clash at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Monday.
Full Scorecard: Rajasthan v Kolkata
Morgan’s 38-ball innings of 51 was the shining light in an otherwise dismal batting performance by the visitors, as they slumped to 125 all out after earlier restricting the Royals to a total of 144 for six.
Kevon Cooper (4-0-15-3) and Siddharth Trivedi (4-0-23-3) were the pick of the bowlers for the hosts, while Brad Hodge’s late fireworks en route to an undefeated 46 from 31 balls had earlier helped his team to a match-winning total.
The Royals have now won both their opening games, and join the Sunrisers Hyderabad on four points, while the Knight Riders slip to fourth place on the standings with two points from their two games.
Earlier, the Royals had lost the toss and been asked to bat first. However, they struggled to get the ball away in the opening exchanges, and lost opener Shane Watson (5) to a sharp catch off the bowling of Brett Lee (4-0-20-1) in the third over with the score on 11.
Captain Rahul Dravid (17) was unable to continue his form from Rajasthan’s opening encounter where he made 65, and, after being tied down by some disciplined Kolkata bowling, played all around one from Rajat Bhatia (3-0-21-1) at the end of the eighth over to end a partnership of 35.
Stuart Binny (14), who amassed 40 from just 20 deliveries in the first match, attempted to up the ante as he crashed three blows to the boundary in the space of five balls. However, he was trapped in front by Laxmi Shukla (2-0-14-1) at the start of the 11th over, and with the score at 63 for three, the Royals seemed to be behind the game.
Opener Ajinkya Rahane (36) and Hodge then steadied the ship for the home side, and a glorious six and a four for each batsman over extra cover in the 15th over took the score past the 100 mark.
Sunil Narine then stunned the home crowd with a double strike an over later as he had Rahane caught behind to one that left the outside edge, before Cooper (0) was stumped just two balls later.
However, the wrist spinner was at the wrong end of an 18-run blasting from Hodge and new batsman Dishant Yagnik (16) in the penultimate over, and a further 12 in the final six deliveries gave the hosts a competitive total.
In reply, the Knight Riders looked to captain Gautam Gambhir (22) to make a positive start, and he duly delivered, bludgeoning a four and a massive six off Sreesanth (4-0-25-1) in a first over which went for 14 runs.
The diminutive paceman was duly replaced by Rahul Shukla (3-0-28-2) two overs later, and the change worked wonders as he got rid of Manvinder Bisla (1) and Jacques Kallis (0) in the space of three deliveries to reduce the visitors to 20 for two.
Gambhir was then joined by Manoj Tiwary (14), and the duo offered brief respite for the Knight Riders with a partnership of 20.
However, another double strike in the seventh over by Trivedi had the stadium bouncing. Tiwary was trapped plumb in front of his stumps at the start of the over, before wicketkeeper Yagnik snared a sharp chance off a thick edge from the dangerous Gambhir four balls later to leave the men from Kolkata in disarray at 43 for four.
It got worse for the Knight Riders though as Yusuf Pathan (0) lasted just two deliveries before being caught by the self-same Yagnik, and when Laxmi Shukla (2) became Trivedi’s third victim at the end of the 11th over with the score on 56, the batting side’s last hope lay with England left-hander Morgan.
The usually dynamic Morgan looked all at sea in the early stages of his knock, but began to hit his straps as he first struck a lusty six off Trivedi, before taking Shukla for a boundary and a maximum over long off in the 14th over.
His innings was fast becoming a lone hand though, as Bhatia (12) was caught an over later, and by the time Lee (5) fell in the 16th, the Knight Riders required 42 from 27 deliveries with just two wickets in hand.
Morgan raised his fifty with an audacious flick for six over fine leg from the pace of Shaun Tait (4-0-29-1) in the 18th over, but when he played on to his stumps off Cooper in the penultimate over, any hopes of a Kolkata victory were ended, and the final wicket fell with an over still remaining in the innings.
RAJASTHAN ROYALS: SR Watson, AM Rahane, R Dravid (capt), STR Binny, BJ Hodge, DH Yagnik (wk), K Cooper, SK Trivedi, SW Tait, S Sreesanth, R Shukla
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS: G Gambhir (capt), MS Bisla (wk), JH Kallis, MK Tiwary, YK Pathan, EJG Morgan, LR Shukla, R Bhatia, B Lee, SP Narine, Shami Ahmed.