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KKR take Dubai by storm to break RR’s winning run

Until last year, our ‘toofani’ fans felt the biggest weakness for Kolkata Knight Riders was their bowling attack. And here we are winning matches on the back of some scintillating bowling displays this year! KKR halted Rajasthan Royal’s unbeaten run on Tuesday with a 37-run victory, successfully defending a modest 175-run total at the Dubai International Stadium. The spirited performance came in the presence of team supremo Shah Rukh Khan, who turned up for the first time this season to cheer for his boys. Apart from King Khan, if anything else delighted all of us, it was the chemistry between our bowlers.

The young duo of Shivam Mavi (2-20) and Kamlesh Nagarkoti (2-13) dismantled the top and middle order after Pat Cummins set the tone of the match with an early wicket of RR skipper Steve Smith (3). Cummins picked up where he had left off in the last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad and conceded just 13 runs off his 3 overs, with a terrific economy rate of 4.33.

Mavi, coming in as the first change, was quick to eliminate the dangerous Jos Buttler (21) and Sanju Samson (8), while Nagarkoti dealt blows to the middle order by removing Robbie Uthappa (2) and Riyan Parag (1) in the same over. Nagarkoti was a treat to the eyes in the outfield too, taking a stunning catch of big hitter Jofra Archer at the long-on. Varun Chakravarthy, who was the magician behind the scalp, looked lethal with the ball today as well, as he also cleaned up the in-form Rahul Tewatia (14) with a googly.

The Rajasthan batting looked completely clueless in front of the KKR bowling attack, as only three of their 10 batsmen managed to enter the two-digit score. Tom Curran was the sole name that put up some resistance with a sturdy 36-ball 54. Mavi, who got the Man of the Match, reflected on his bowling and said, “When I went in to bowl, I thought it would be a flat wicket but then I realised it was seaming well. So, I just kept the line and length tight. I have played against most of these players and I knew their shot selection. So, I kept bowling length balls.”

Earlier, winning the toss, RR put KKR to bat first. We had a few tweaks in the batting order with Nitish Rana and Andre Russell making their way ahead of Dinesh Karthik. The Dubai pitch was a tough nut to crack as most of KKR’s top order struggled to capitalize on the starts they got.

Shubman Gill (47 off 34) was at his usual best yesterday but couldn’t convert the start into a big knock. Narine (15 off 14) Rana (22 off 17) and Dre Russ (24 off 14) – all three spent a while in the middle before heading back to the hut. However, Eoin Morgan (34 off 23) battled the difficult conditions right till the end and kept KKR on track to ensure a defendable total. Jofra Archer looked menacing with 14 dot balls and figures of 2-14 in his 4 overs. Skipper Dinesh Karthik (1) was one of his scalps. His form continued to be a concern despite the batting order switch and he might need to soon break the jinx as the tournament gets more intense in the coming days.

In the end, our bowlers made it look all easy. Crediting the bowlers and batsmen alike, skipper Karthik said, “I liked the way Shubman started, the way Mavi bowled, the way Russell batted, the way Morgan stayed till the end, and a lot of other small things. Archer bowled really well and it wasn’t that easy a wicket to bat on. A couple of guys who batted well made it look easier than it was.”

Well, that’s two in a row for KKR and with a few loopholes sealed by our think tank, KKR will certainly be one of the biggest powerhouses to reckon with going ahead in the tournament. Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo!