Karun Nair, who made a valuable contribution in his debut season to help Karnataka win the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy title, proved that he belonged to the big stage. The 22-year-old showed tough temperament to notch up his maiden half-century (73 n.o., 50b) in the Indian Premier League and guide Rajasthan Royals to a seven-wicket win over Delhi Daredevils at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Saturday.
After Shane Watson inserted Daredevils in and the home side posted 152 for five, Royals needed someone to take up responsibility and handle the run chase smoothly. Nair did just that and cemented his place in RR’s future journey.
With his impeccable shot selection, Quinton de Kock provided a solid start to the home side. Often, the left-hander hopped across the off-stump to play spectacular scoops to the boundary. A superb flick off Watson for six and a couple of fours off Stuart Binny and Rajat Bhatia delighted the home fans.
In four overs, de Kock and Murali Vijay gathered 33 for the first wicket. Vijay looked promising before perishing to an ill-timed shot in James Faulkner’s opening over. Kevin Pietersen’s stay at the middle was eventful. The DD captain received a ‘life’ in Bhatia’s first over. As the ball struck Pietersen’s pads, RR wicketkeeper Sanju Vishwanadh collected it in a flash and disturbed the stumps with a direct throw.
Even though the RR fielders appealed for a run out, umpire Sanjay Hazare did not refer it to the third umpire. The visitor rued its luck as television replays suggested that Pietersen should have been given ‘out.’
An accurate Tambe once again proved his utility. After removing Pietersen, he took a sharp return catch to get rid of the dangerous de Kock three balls later. Faulkner was the other bowler who hit the good length frequently to check the run flow and provided two crucial breakthroughs.
DD relied on J.P. Duminy’s responsible knock (39 off 31) to reach a decent aggregate. The South African, who added 46 crucial runs with Kedar Jadhav (28 off 14), batted sensibly at the critical time and shifted gear in the death overs to help DD put up a fighting total.
He slotted four boundaries to different parts of the park and a six over square leg before being brilliantly caught on the fence by Bhatia off Kane Richardson. In reply, RR lost Ajinkya Rahane early, but Nair and Vishwanadh (34 off 28) gathered 51 for the second wicket to keep the required run rate within reach. Vishwanadh’s innings was a mix of aggression and caution. He stepped out to hit left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem for four and pulled one for six off consecutive deliveries before being stumped in the same over. Nair’s was a story of determination. He reacted according to the situation and switched between his roles beautifully. While collecting runs predominantly on the off-side, he hammered eight fours and two sixes and saw RR home with nine balls to spare.