Rajasthan Royals may have chased down some stiff targets this season, but not on Sunday night. Its chase for place in the playoffs was over too after the 60-run loss to Kolkata Knight Riders at the Dubai International Stadium.
The win kept KKR in the hunt, but its destiny is not in its hands. It finished the league phase with 14 points and needs favours from other teams to make further progress.
Captain Eoin Morgan and Pat Cummins were KKR’s heroes. The skipper’s brilliant unbeaten 68 off just 35 balls (5×4, 6×6) helped the team recover from 99 for five and post a formidable 191 for seven while the pacer’s spell with the new ball broke the back of Royals’ strong top-order.
The chase had started in sensational fashion as Cummins’ first five balls went for 19, but off his sixth, he had Robin Uthappa flicking to Kamlesh Nagarkoti at deep square-leg. In his next over, he had Ben Stokes stunningly caught behind by Dinesh Karthik — the airborne wicketkeeper diving to his left to pluck the ball out of thin air — and Steve Smith playing on to his stumps.
Sanju Samson and Riyan Parag also snicked to the ’keeper, off Shivam Mavi and Cummins respectively, in the next two overs. Morgan’s decision to give Cummins a third over paid off as he got rid of Parag. After bowling the most expensive first over of the season, Cummins finished with four for 34.
With half the Royals side back in the dugout for 37 inside five overs, a lot depended on Jos Buttler (35, 22b, 4×4, 1×6) and Rahul Tewatia (31, 27b, 2×4, 1×6). However, neither lasted long enough to pose a serious threat.
Earlier, Morgan could not have timed his first half-century of the season better. After the 72-run second-wicket stand between Shubman Gill (36, 24b, 6×4) and Rahul Tripathi (39, 34b, 4×4, 2×6), KKR lost wickets in a cluster before the skipper unleashed some breathtaking shots. Andre Russell’s cameo (25, 11b, 1×4, 3×6) helped too.