It is one thing including slow bowlers in your eleven to make use of a turning surface and a completely different matter for spinners to produce a match-winning performance. For Friday’s night encounter at the Eden Gardens, both Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals brought in tweakers into their playing eleven, hoping to exploit the turning conditions. But, it was only one side that managed to utilise the help from the surface in a significant manner, and that team ended up winning the match rather easily. In this case, it was hosts KKR.
Having chosen to bat first, the Royals needed someone to stand up and see away the threat of the Kolkata spinners. But, it wasn’t to be the case, as the home team’s spinners were the dominant force throughout the first half. Sachithra Senanayake was, in particular, impressive. He never allowed the Royals’ innings to settle, bowling a perfect spinner’s delivery to send back Ajinkya Rahane and then returning to take the scalp of Dishant Yagnik. Sunil Narine played more of a supporting role this time, but made a significant impact without doubt, sending back the well-set Shane Watson, who looked all at sea against him.
Apart from the two main spinners, all the other bowlers also played their part in ensuring that the Royals did not recover from an undercooked start. Iqbal Abdulla saw to it that the Royals’ experiment of sending in James Faulkner one down was a failure. Rajat Bhatia dismissed youngster Sanju Samson, who was impressive once again. The 18-year-old looked set to pick up another half-century, but just before the beginning of the slog overs, Bhatia sent him back. Samson’s dismissal was crucial in keeping the Royals down to a gettable total. Owais Shah chipped in with a nice cameo to take the Royals’ total to a respectable one.
At the halfway stage, the Royals still sounded confident, well aware that this wasn’t the easiest surface to bat on. But, for them to make a match out of it, they needed their spinners to perform as well as their Kolkata counterparts, if not better. That did not turn out to be the case. Ankeet Chavan couldn’t land the ball in the right areas while Brad Hogg could hardly land it! The veteran Aussie chinaman bowled a number of full tosses, as a result of which no kind of pressure was ever built on the Kolkata batsmen.
Kolkata also batted without much trouble and once they were off to a flyer, the task got much easier for them. Gautam Gambhir fell cheaply, but the other batsmen were in their elements, as a result of which the hosts got home easily. Manvinder Bisla played some attractive strokes to put pressure on the Royals’ bowlers. With no high run rate to be maintained, Jacques Kallis took it easy, and stayed on till the end. There was a big plus in the form of Yusuf Pathan, who finally came good with blistering counter-attack at the end.
Turning point of the game: Samson’s dismissal in the 18th over, which cost the Royals a few important runs at the end.
--By A Cricket Analyst