The Rajasthan Royals side had succumbed to a horrendous run of form of late. With one victory in eight consecutive matches, things looked bleak and dismal. A massive turnaround was needed if they were to salvage the situation; it was the proverbial lull before the storm. The storm arrived and Shane Watson led the carnage, thundering past KKR with merciless fury.
It was an innings that not only powered RR to the Playoffs, but also resurrected the confidence of the team, which had suffered a major hit. After the hosts elected to bat first at the Brabourne stadium, Rahane and Watson pummelled their way through the KKR bowling. They smashed away good length deliveries through the covers, bisecting the fielders at will, with some magnificent textbook shots. The partnership was beginning to look ominous as RR reached 66/0 at the end of the powerplay. It was only when Rahane was run out for a brilliant 37 off 22 that KKR heaved a sigh of relief.
The KKR bowlers tried to plug the flow of runs. Steve Smith found himself caught at fine leg off a delivery that was nearly waist-high. Sanju Samson and Karun Nair failed yet again, and even James Faulkner could not unleash the fireworks. As wickets fell in quick succession at the other end, Watson, unhindered and unforgiving, powered away to glory.
Azhar Mahmood, who was brought in in place of Sunil Narine, perhaps for his all-round abilities, became an easy target, and RR garnered a lot of runs from his overs. With Watson racing away to his century and Rajasthan crossing 190 in the 19th over, a total in excess of 200 seemed to be on the cards. But Andre Russel returned to the attack with an excellent last over. He produced yorkers that were tough to put away, and Morris and Watson could scamper for only 7 runs off that over.
The equation was simple. The Kolkata Knight Riders needed 200 in 20 overs to qualify for the Playoffs stage. It was difficult, but not impossible, given the nature of the pitch, and the calibre of the KKR batsmen. Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir provided the kind of start that was needed, and KKR were very much in the running.
However, as two wickets fell in quick succession, and Gambhirand Uthappa were back in the hut, the onus was on Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan, to keep the scoreboard ticking. The duo did a decent job with a swift 50-run partnership before Pandey was dismissed by Kulkarni. Yusuf Pathan, however, kept finding the ropes at will, and never let the required run rate shoot up to unachievable levels.
Russel was in a punishing mood. Debutante Brainder Sran went for plenty in his quota of overs as Russel smashed him across the park. Faulkner was also made to pay for a dropped chance off his own bowling, and at that moment it looked as though Yusuf and Russel would guide KKR home.
There was another twist in the plot, as Chris Morris returned in the 14th over to pick the twin scalps of Russel and Surya Kumar Yadav in the space of three deliveries. That over put the brakes on the batting efforts, and handed the advantage back to RR.
With Yusuf gone, and Shakib struggling, it looked like the end of the road for KKR. But Umesh Yadav gave RR the momentary scare and surprised one and all with some superb hitting. He smashed Faulkner at the death for 3 fours and a six, to reduce the equation to 16 needed off the final over. It was still anybody’s game.
But the bowler of the hour, Chris Morris, had different plans. He picked up the wicket of Shakib Al Hasan to complete his 4-wicket haul, and put an end to Umesh Yadav’s display of bravery as well as to KKR’s hopes. On a day when even the best of bowlers were not spared, Morris stood out with a magnificent spell of fast bowling. Steve Smith was a happy captain, at the end of it all. Rajasthan were through to the Playoffs after all the struggle in recent times.