Brad Hodge’s sparkling unbeaten 46 gave Rajasthan Royals a respectable total. (BCCI)
Jaipur: On a slow pitch at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Monday, Brad Hodge's sparkling unbeaten 46 gave Rajasthan Royals a respectable total which they defended with an inspired bowling performance led by Siddharth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper and backed by sharp fielding, especially from wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik who pocketed three catches. Chasing 145, a limp KKR combusted via a series of rash strokes and went from 40 for 2 to 56 for 6, with Siddharth Trivedi doing the bulk of the damage with three wickets in first three overs. Eoin Morgan kept Kolkata in the hunt but he lacked the firepower, and support, to pull off victory.
With Shane Watson's much-anticipated return proving a dull affair - he made 5 off 10 balls - Rajasthan were reliant on Hodge's unbeaten 46 off 31 balls to get them to a decent total after a slow start. With Ajinkya Rahane (36) the only other batsman to make an impact, Hodge's quickfire innings proved monumental in Rajasthan's second successive victory.
A high-octane opening burst of 3-0-13-1 from Brett Lee, during which he picked up his former Australia team-mate Watson for 5, meant Rajasthan were off to a shaky start. Lee bowled quick and banged the ball in hard, and his speed was followed by the military medium of Rajat Bhatia, who bowled Rahul Dravid for 17 in his first over as the Rajasthan captain played down the wrong line.
Rajasthan were 53 for 2 at the first strategy break and lost Stuart Binny (14) to the first delivery bowled by Laxmi Shukla. Rajasthan threatened to unleash in the 15th over, during which Rahane drove Shami Ahmed for six and Hodge smoked one through the covers for four, but Narine's return to bowl the 16th over pulled KKR back. With his second ball he had Rahane caught behind for 36 attempting a nudge to third man and Kevon Cooper missed the fourth and was stumped (101 for 5).
Narine's final over was nowhere near as profitable. A deft dab to third man for four by Hodge was followed by two audacious hits from Yagnik: a flat-batted six over midwicket and a reverse sweep for four. Hodge and Sreesanth scrambled 12 off the final over from Kallis to take the total to 144 for 6.
Kolkata's chase was rocked early through two breakthroughs from young pace bowler Rahul Shukla, who bowled Manvinder Bisla for 1 with a 146kph delivery and two balls later got Kallis to edge a catch to Yagnik behind the stumps. The 22-year-old from Jharkhand clocked impressive speeds and banged the ball in hard during his opening spell of 2 for 15, which was followed by the introduction of a much slower but equally effective Trivedi.
KKR had managed 40 off the Powerplay but were jolted in the seventh. With his first ball, a full inswinger which Manoj Tiwary played all over, and then on the fifth Gautam Gambhir (22) chased a wide ball and was well held by a leaping Yagnik. It only got worse, as a leaden-footed Yusuf Pathan (0) flailed his bat at Cooper's fifth delivery and gave Yagnik a regulation catch. Trivedi added Shukla in his third over and at 56 for 6, Kolkata were on the mat.
Morgan switched gears in Trivedi's final over, hitting six over fine leg to help KKR take 15 off the bowler, and when Shukla returned Morgan slapped him past mid-off for four and lofted him for six. Unfortunately for Morgan there was not enough support from the other end. Rajat Bhatia pulled Shaun Tait straight to Binny at deep midwicket and Lee picked out the man at long-on to give Sreesanth his first wicket. Morgan brought up his fifty in 35 balls with another big six over fine leg, but 23 from 12 balls proved too much for him. On 51, he moved across his stumps and missed a swipe and Cooper to be bowled. Cooper finished the match with 3 for 15, as Shami swung the last ball of the penultimate over to deep midwicket.