Morgan ploughs a lone furrow for the defending champion as wickets fall around him
Eoin Morgan tried to make a match of it, but it was Rajasthan Royals’ night at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here.
Kolkata Knight Riders ran into motivated opposition, with almost every individual playing his role to perfection to fashion a 19-run win for the home team.
Rahul Shukla, a bubbling youngster from Jharkhand, came up with a lively show, accounting for Manvinder Singh Bisla and Jacques Kallis in the same over to jolt KKR early.
Seasoned seamer Siddharth Trivedi’s double strike, again in the same over, to pack off Manoj Tiwary and Gautam Gambhir pushed KKR into a tight spot.
Yusuf Pathan’s dismissal to a tempting offering from Kevon Cooper meant KKR had run into rough ground after having begun the chase in high gear with Gambhir blasting S. Sreesanth in the opening over.
Morgan kept the hopes alive but ran out of team and partners. The setting was pleasant when Rajasthan Royals was put in. Shane Watson brought solidity to the top but not consistency. A cleverly placed short-cover ended the burly Australian’s innings when he repeated a cover drive.
But there was Rahul Dravid’s innings to savour. Dravid brings quality to batting, even in an abbreviated format like the T20. He insisted the other day that he had not discarded proper cricketing shots, and there was this gorgeous cover drive off Kallis that rekindled memories of Dravid at his best. Everything about that drive was perfect as Dravid struck a classic pose and watched the ball race to the boundary. Kallis would have admired the shot too. KKR skipper Gambhir was in a highly innovative mood. By the eighth over he had used his fifth bowler. It obviously kept the batsmen thinking.
The run flow was impacted, and a couple of wickets pegged down the RR run-rate. Dravid lost his wicket to an ambitious shot, playing all over the ball and Rajat Bhatia was ecstatic.
So was Shukla when he removed Stuart Binny with his first ball. Binny, having struck a couple of well-timed boundaries, was surprised by in-swing.
All this while, Ajinkya Rahane was working away; a nudge here, a firm shot there.
In the end, Hodge’s performance made all the difference as Royals held their nerve to win.