Steve Smith, Sunil Narine and Harry Gurney
Steve Smith (L), Sunil Narine (c) and Harry Gurney (Agencies)

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) continued their winning march and this time they didn’t need a late intervention of a certain Andre Russell as they outclassed Rajasthan Royals to climb up at the top of the Indian Premier League (IPL) points table. (READ: Lynn, Narine muscle KKR to top with emphatic win)

Here we look at the phases from the contest that proved decisive

Rajasthan crawl

Did RR misread the pitch? The approach their batters took seems to suggest so. Just a cursory glance will tell you how differently they batted from their opponents at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Sunday night. After being put in to bat, RR lost opener Ajinkya Rahane early. No. 3 Steve Smith joined Jos Buttler but the duo mustered 28 runs in the Powerplay. They were offered seven overs of spin from Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla in the first 10 overs. At the halfway stage, they had crawled to 56/1. In reply, KKR raced to 105/1 at the same stage.

Smith hits slow fifty

Steve Smith hit his first half-century of the season and it must have come as a massive sigh of relief for Australian cricket. It should as for better part of his innings, Smith batted in ODI mode. He was once batting at run-a-ball 39 and with six more overs to go. Not that he looked uncomfortable during his innings. Although, he tried making up for it by peeling off 34 runs off his next 20 deliveries faced but his low strike-rate early on did hurt RR’s chances of posting a competitive total. He finished unbeaten on 73 off 59 with seven fours and a six. And the manner in which every RR batter paced his innings suggested it was a difficult wicket to bat on.

Contrasting debuts

He continues to bowl in the late 140 kps but Lockie Ferguson hasn’t made an impact with so far for KKR. In four matches, he has two wickets at an economy of 10.42. KKR dropped him for debutant Harry Gurney – not a tearaway pacer but known for his clever change of pace. And he didn’t disappoint. His first over resulted in three runs, when Buttler took on him with six over deep square leg, Gurney dropped a slower one and had his fellow countryman caught near the boundary. In his second spell, he added another scalp while conceding just three. His final over was RR’s last of the innings in which he kept them to eight runs, finishing with 4-0-25-2.

RR also had a debutant in Sudhesan Midhun. The legspinner ran into a rampaging Sunil Narine who smoked him for two sixes as 16 runs came off his first over. Rajasthan gave him another go but then Robin Uthappa struck two fours off the 24-year-old as 13 runs came off his next. He wasn’t asked to bowl again – his figures 2-0-27-0. (READ: All about Rajasthan’s debutant Sudhesan Midhun)

Lucky breaks

KKR openers Narine Chris Lynn showed how awfully their opponents had misread the pitch. Or how well their bowlers had done to keep them quiet? They blazed away to 65/0 in the Powerplay overs with Narine blasting 34 off 16. The duo was lucky to have survived though. When batting on 23, Narine top-edged a slower one from Dhawal Kulkarni to point but Rahul Tripathi grassed a sitter. Narine added 24 more before departing for a 25-ball 47 with six fours and three sixes. In the same over, Lynn inside edged Kulkarni onto the stumps and stared to walk as the ball rolled away to the fine leg boundary. But the zinger bails remained stationary. The Australian survived and Kulkarni couldn’t believe his wretched luck as he could have taken two wickets in as many deliveries. Lynn went on to complete his half-century.