Beaten but not disgraced as they finished with a flourish, the Rajasthan Royals (RR) diminished damage to their net run rate in what would have been a comprehensive loss to the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
In their first game away from their ground of dominance, Sharjah, RR displayed a lack of familiarity with the conditions - to a small extent with the ball, but to a massive extent with bat in hand.
An unchanged KKR persisted with Sunil Narine at the top of the order. The southpaw struggled and was stuck on just 5 off 10 at one stage, before he redeemed himself with two boundaries.
What worked for KKR was the promising Shubman Gill setting up the innings, Nitish Rana building from there, and Andre Russell and Eoin Morgan's quick scoring. Unlike last game, while KKR's batting depth was tested, their 7-bowler strategy did not severely dent their batting.
In the chase, RR were put up against a KKR bowling attack that is rapidly gaining in confidence since their mauling in the first game against MI. Pat Cummins and Man of the Match Shivam Mavi bowled with high accuracy, tying down the scoring and ensuring that RR never picked up steam.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti, playing his second game of competitive cricket after years of injury-related breaks, picked up two wickets in just two overs. Mystery spinner Chakravarthy was effective again. It was only Tom Curran who showed some semblance of resistance, with a sprightly 50 when the match looked out of RR's grasp.
There were some positives for both sides, but a lot of players were unable to put up good performances. Here's a look at three such players.
#3 Sanju Samson (RR)
During KKR's innings, Sanju Samson managed to hog the limelight after a difficult catch near the boundary rope to dismiss Pat Cummins. The two would have an interesting battle for an over, where Cummins bowled express pace at RR's most consistent batsman thus far.
The battle was cut short as KKR pacer Shivam Mavi got the better of Samson. Trying to clear the infield over mid-wicket, Samson could only get as far as the fielder on the circle as he ended up offering a simple catch. For someone who has shown incredible class with the bat in the two games leading up to this, it was indeed a very soft dismissal.
#2 Dinesh Karthik (KKR)
Dinesh Karthik entered the field of play at a relatively settled stage of the KKR innings. Having already set up a fine platform, Shubman Gill departed to bring in the skipper to bat alongside Andre Russell. Karthik had hardly been at the crease for a few balls when he received a peach of a delivery from Jofra Archer, who was easily RR's best bowler on the night.
When the captain departed, KKR looked in a spot of bother with not many recognised batsmen to follow after Russell and Eoin Morgan. It did help that the two in question played quick innings - Russell, in particular. While the second half of the match went almost exactly as Karthik would have liked, more runs with the bat would allay concerns regarding KKR's batting depth.
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#1 Steve Smith (RR)
IPL 2020 saw the first-ever appearance of Steve Smith the opener, as the RR team management found a new role for the Australian. Indeed, since he was handed the Test captaincy back in 2014-2015, Smith has tasted enormous success in the Test and ODI formats. He is no stranger to the IPL either, and captained the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant to an IPL final in 2017.
In two innings with the bat prior to this game, Smith had scored two half-centuries, both at a high strike rate. All that changed as he was tested by his national teammate and Australian Test vice-captain Pat Cummins with the new ball.
Looking fidgety at the crease, Smith was caught edging one after several ugly attempts at lofted shots. As a captain, Smith may also have read the ground wrong, which affected his strategy.
While RR still look good on the points table, their first loss asks them many important questions about their bowling and their top-order dependence.
Published 01 Oct 2020, 01:52 IST