Shane Watson couldn’t have timed his maiden ton of the Indian Premier League-8 better. The Aussie preserved his best for the last league match of the tournament as Rajasthan Royals beat defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders by nine runs to clinch a play-offs spot at the Brabourne Stadium on Saturday.
RR’ Chris Morris (centre) celebrates the wicket KKR’s Gautam Gambhir on Saturday. Pics/Atul Kamble
Watson ensured he baked the cake and added a cherry too with his 59-ball unbeaten 104 before claiming two for 38 in his four overs which included the big wicket of Yusuf Pathan (44). KKR, meanwhile, are on the verge of being knocked out.
Too many extras
Chasing RR’s 199-6, KKR could manage 190-6. It could have been much less had RR’s all-pace attack not conceded 26 extras (3 leg-byes, 18 wides and five no balls).
RR bowlers did well to dismiss KKR openers Gautam Gambhir (1) and Robin Uthappa (14) inside the first three overs. Dhawal Kulkarni picked up his second wicket when Manish Pandey (21) hit one straight to Chris Morris at cover to end the 56-run partnership with Pathan.
However, West Indian Andre Russell played a blinder that made the crowd shift their loyalties to KKR. The six over mid-wicket that landed outside the ground left everyone stunned. He followed it with a cracking four off IPL debutant Brainder Sran’s next ball through cover as KKR took 15 runs off the over.
Morris helped RR bounce back in style, dismissing Russell (20-ball 37) and Suryakumar Yadav (0) and conceded only two runs from his third over.
The match was virtually over for KKR when Pathan holed out to Kulkarni at long off for 44. A few lusty blows from Umesh Yadav (24 not out) in the penultimate over to take 20 runs off James Faulkner gave KKR a glimmer of hope with 16 needed off the last over. But Morris, who was the pick of the RR bowlers with 4-23, conceded only six runs.
Earlier, Rajasthan Royals’ decision to ease Watson from the pressures of captaincy did wonders. The two consecutive well-timed fours off Azhar Mahmood in the first over of RR innings made Watson the one to watch out for
Watson became the fourth IPL-8 centurion when he slammed a boundary off Umesh in the third man region during RR’s final over. The most amazing part of Watson’s innings was that he reached the three-figure mark without playing any scoop shot, paddle sweep or slog sweep, thus proving that one can succeed in T20s with pure cricketing shots.
Rajasthan Royals: 199/6 in 20 overs (Shane Watson 104 not out, Ajinkya Rahane 37; Andre Russell 3-32)
Kolkata Knight Riders 190/9 in 20 overs (Yusuf Pathan 44, Andre Russell 37, Umesh Yadav 24 not out; Chris Morris 4-23).
The Playing XIs:
RR: Steven Smith (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Karun Nair, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner, Chris Morris, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Brainder Sran.
KKR: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Piyush Chawla, Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Azhar Mahmood.
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