Less than six months ago, Rahul Tripathi’s credentials with the bat wasn’t even enough to earn him a regular place in Maharashtra’s starting XI. He, however, had the reputation of hitting big sixes, twice hitting six sixes in local cricket. On Wednesday (May 3) evening, however, he was busy butchering an attack comprising of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Umesh Yadav, Chris Woakes, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav with such ruthlessness that the star power of Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni, or the form of Steve Smith and Ben Stokes couldn’t come close to stealing his limelight. His 52-ball 93 helped Rising Pune Supergiants register their sixth win in seven matches, this time by four wickets.
Where did the game change?The Powerplay overs. While Kolkata Knight Riders got off to a surprisingly slow start, adding only 41 runs for the loss of three wickets, the visitors decimated KKR with such authority that nearly half the target was wiped off within the first six overs of the chase. KKR bowlers were carted all over the park, leaking 74 runs in this period, with Tripathi racing away to 47 off 18 balls.
It wasn’t that KKR batted poorly in the Powerplay, just like they didn’t bowl that badly in RPS’s innings. It was all about the superior play of Steve Smith’s boys, who first used the conditions well to negate KKR’s tried and tested tactics and while batting, it was a one-man assault which put the hosts on the backfoot early.
The toss factor:The last time KKR had lost chasing at Eden Gardens was in 2013. Unfortunately, RPS skipper Steve Smith called heads and that’s exactly how the coin settled on the ground after being tossed up by Gautam Gambhir. Not surprisingly, they chose to field. RPS, who have revived their campaign with a few crucial wins, came in with an unchanged side. KKR on the other hand were without the services of Robin Uthappa, their second-highest run-getter this season, due to a hamstring injury.
Formula fails, but the lesser-proven stand upKKR are one of the very few teams in Indian Premier League who have the luxury of having a settled unit. They have had to make very few alterations to their combinations over the last four-five seasons. The core, around which they have grown on to become one of the strongest sides in the competition, has remained in tact. Even this season, the two most drastic changes they brought to the side was
1) Playing at least three pacers
2) Promoting Sunil Narine to open the batting
The second move, one of the most successful innovations of the season, didn’t quite work today. Narine, who is sent out to take advantage of the field restrictions, failed to get going today. More importantly, his inability to put away Jaydev Unadkat’s deliveries outside off, allowed RPS to start off with a wicket maiden. Gold, isn’t it?
If that wasn’t enough, they weren’t even able to build partnerships – something they have done better than most teams this season – to go with the inability to stop the flow of runs. They tottered their way to 59 for 4 at the end of the 10th over.
Led by Manish Pandey, they broke free in the 11th over, putting away Shardul Thakur for three boundaries off the first three balls, in the process spoiling his bowling figures which impressively stood at 2-0-6-0. Two were hit through the mid wicket region and one was an overthrow. 12 runs in three balls allowed KKR to breathe easy and continue their charge with slightly less pressure.
Thereafter, it was the turn of Suryakumar Yadav and Colin de Grandhomme, who have had little impact with the bat this season, to stand up and be counted. The New Zealander, who came out to bat at No 6, plundered three boundaries and two sixes enroute his 19-ball 36. Suryakumar too added crucial runs down the order to help the side reach 155 for 8. The Mumbai batsman was unbeaten for his 16-ball 30, but kept running out of partners.
The total wasn’t good enough as Gambhir admitted after the match and all it took was a special effort from one batsman to help the opposition surpass the target.
Rahul Tripathi dismantles KKRHe destroyed the international bowlers with such disregard, that it was almost as if he believed he could do anything. He could hit the way he liked, wherever he liked. A slap here, a pull there, a drive to follow and a graceful lofted shot over the boundary ropes. The authority was such that he carried all the reputation, undaunted by the loud Eden Gardens crowd, and the big names around him. By the 12th over, when an appeal for stumping against him went up to the third umpire, who declared it ‘Not Out’, the crowd started cheering – as warm a reception a visiting player can expect there.
Such was the belief that when he pulled one to mid wicket for substitute fielder Rovman Powell to take a superb catch and end his innings, he stood at his crease for nearly 10 seconds in disbelief.
It was almost a one-man chase as wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals from the other end. Only two other batsmen managed to notch up double figure scores in the innings – Ajinkya Rahane (11) and Ben Stokes (14). Tripathi hit seven of the nine sixes in the RPS innings. An exhibition of entertaining batting.
And there was Chris WoakesThe match that seemed done and dusted for a long period of time, didn’t quite end as early as RPS would have liked. Led by Chris Woakes’ bowling effort, KKR managed to push the match till the last over, only to allow the inevitable to take place. In all of Tripathi’s blitz was Woakes’ fine bowling effort. The English pacer finished his spell with figures of 4-0-18-3 and was instrumental in stretching the match for as far as it did.
Where do they go?KKR, after a dominant start, have been kept on the backfoot for the last two games. While their challenge might be to end in the Top Two, given the kind of start they had in the first half of the league stage, Gambhir has shifted the focus back to qualifying for the Playoffs. Miffed after the defeat, he said, “till the time you are not in the Playoffs, you are not in the Playoffs.”
They have three more matches remaining, but only one at home. They have lost the momentum, but they will be playing two of the weakest sides this season, next – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab. They would look to win both their matches and book a place in the Playoffs, and hopefully the top two. Their last match, at home, is against Mumbai Indians. They wouldn’t want to leave anything for as far as that encounter.
Rising Pune Supergiant will now travel to Hyderabad for their next encounter on May 6. After their penultimate league match against Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla, they will face Kings XI Punjab at home. This win has helped them equal KKR on the points table and are well-placed to challenge for the top two positions.
Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 155/8 in 20 overs (Manish Pandey 37, Colin de Grandhomme 36; Washington Sundar 2-18, Jaydev Unadkat 2-28) lost to Rising Pune Supergiant 158/6 in 18.2 overs (Rahul Tripathi 93; Chris Woakes 3-18) by 4 wickets