In a night of several outstanding performances, the Knights overcame a shaky start to come out on top against the Royal Challengers, registering their first victory of the season in comprehensive fashion.
Put into bat after RCB won the toss, The Knights were in trouble early on losing opener Venkatesh Iyer and Mandeep Singh in the 4th over with just 26 runs on the board. Post the dismissal of Skipper Rana in the 7th over, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who looked in fine knick, joined Rinku Singh in steadying the ship with a 42 run partnership. Gurbaz etched his name in the history books tonight, by becoming the first Afghani player to score a 50 in the IPL, bringing up his 50 off 38 balls. With the score at 89/3 in the 12th over, the platform was set for the middle order to launch from and put up a formidable score on the board. However Karn Sharma, struck in back to back balls, first removing Gurbaz for a well made 57 and then getting the big wicket of Russell on the very next ball. The capacity crowd at Eden was stunned into silence following the sudden turn of events.
Rinku Singh who was doing a great job of holding the other end, was joined by Shardul Thakur now with over 8 overs to play. Shardul Thakur, came on to the pitch like a man possessed, hitting boundaries at will, in what was as an excellent counter attacking effort from the Indian international. Bringing up his 50 from just 21 balls, Shardul looked at ease against both spin and pace putting pressure on a RCB attack which looked out of ideas at the death once again. Rinku Singh, who was definitely enjoying the fireworks from the other end, got into the party as well hitting a couple of sixes against Harshal Patel in the 19th over before getting out in the final ball of the over to finish with a well made 46 of 33 balls. The recovery work was however complete! Rinku and Shardul had compiled a 103 run partnership from just 45 balls and although Shardul Thakur was dismissed in the final over for 68 of just 29 balls, a late boundary from Umesh saw the Knights past the 200 mark and post an imposing total of 204/7 in 20 overs.
Thakur’s innings was also one for the record books as his innings is now the highest score ever by a no. 7 batsman in IPL history.
With a formidable score on the board, the crowd was truly charged up for the defence as the Knights had carried the momentum into the break. The Knights replaced Venkatesh Iyer at the start of the 2nd innings, with debutant 19 year old spinner Suyash Sharma, who would go on to have quite a memorable outing as the night progressed.
RCB openers Virat Kohli and Faf Du Plessis began in domineering fashion hitting their stride early and racing onto 40 odd in the first 4 overs with the Knights struggling to get the early breakthrough. Rana then brought on Narine for the 5th over to immediate impact as he bamboozled Virat Kohli with an off break that castled the Indian ace and gave the Knights an all important breakthrough. Varun Chakraborty then removed Faf in identical fashion in the very next over and the Royal Challengers never recovered after the back to back dismissals. From 44/0 in the 5th over to 61/5 by the end of the 8th, the mystery spin twins of Sunil Narine and Varun Chakraborty made merry on an Eden track which was now offering both turn and grip for the spinners. Shardul Thakur was not done with his heroics for the night as he returned to get the wicket of Bracewell in the 12th over to practically settle the game in the Knight’s favour.
Debutant Suyash then got into the act grabbing 3 wickets in his quota of 4 overs to mark an impressive debut. The 19 year old, who was playing his first professional game, gave glimpses of a maturity beyond his years and will be one to watch out for as the season progresses. Varun Chakraborty returned to dismiss Akashdeep in the 18th over to cap off an incredible night for the Knights finishing with figures of 4/15 in 3.4 overs!
Speaking at the post match interview, Skipper Rana said that there were plenty of positives in the first game as well and he feels the same happened today with the Gurbaz at the top, Shardul’s incredible knock, Rinku Singh holding up one end and the dominance of the 3 spinners who shared 9 wickets amongst themselves.
Shardul Thakur, deservingly winning the Man of the Match Award jokingly said that even he doesn’t know where this knock came from! He credited the innings to him working on his batting at the nets over the last few months
With an important win in the bag, the Knights will now travel to Gujarat to take on the defending champions on Sunday, the 9th of April.