IPL 2018: Spinners have a field day and other talking points as Kolkata Knight Riders breach Rajasthan Royals' fortress

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Kolkata eased away to a comprehensive win. Image - KKR/Twitter.

Kolkata Knight Riders brought an end to Rajasthan Royals‘ streak of nine consecutive IPL wins at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur as they eased away to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory.

Put into bat first after losing the toss, the hosts could only muster 160-8 on a good batting track. That was always going to be a tough total to defend against the batting line-up of the visitors who won with seven balls to spare in the end.

Here, we look at the key talking points of Kolkata’s impressive win.

SHORT’S STRUGGLES AGAINST SPIN

D’Arcy Short might have lit up the Big Bash league with a record-breaking season with the bat but his start to life in the IPL has been as poor as it gets. After being run-out for scores of 4 and 6 in his first two matches, Short could only muster 10 runs in his last outing to complete a horrendous run.

Sensing his vulnerabilities against the slower bowlers, Dinesh Karthik opened with spin at either end with the new ball. That gambit paid off as Short struggled to read the googlies of Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav. The Australian opener found it difficult to even get bat on ball as the dot-balls piled up.

In the end, the first three overs of the power-play yielded only nine runs with no boundaries to show for, a poor return for any limited-overs clash let alone a T20 match.

SUBLIME RAHANE MAKES UP FOR DARCY’S SHORTCOMINGS

As the run-rate pressure kept growing on the Royals after Short’s struggles against spin, skipper Ajinkya Rahane took it upon himself to break the shackles. The opener carted Sunil Narine for four successive boundaries to start the fourth over as the runs finally started to flow at the Sawai Mansingh stadium.

Those flowing boundaries off the West Indies spinner seemed to embolden Rahane and he played perhaps the shot of the match in the next over by Shivam Mavi, carting the India U19 pacer straight over his head for a six after advancing down the track.

It was due to Rahane’s burst that the Royals ended up with a decent score of 48-0 in the power-play after the shockingly slow start.

KOLKATA’S SPINNERS HAVE A BOWL BUT NARINE DISAPPOINTS

Kolkata Knight Rider’s spin-heavy contingent enjoyed a field day on the Jaipur wicket where the odd ball was keeping very low. While Chawla and Kuldeep were almost impossible to get away for runs, young Nitish Rana profited from that pressure with two big scalps of Rahane and Short. The youngster’s two overs of spin went for only 11 runs.

Chawla was the clear pick of the spinners as he finished with supremely economical figures of 1-18 from his overs while Kuldeep went at less than run-a-ball himself with figures of 1-23. The three spinners combined picked up 4-52 in the 10 overs between them and that ultimately proved to be the difference.

Kolkata’s ace spinner Narine had a day to forget though after Rahane’s assault on him with his four overs going for whopping 48 runs without fetching any wicket.

UTHAPPA’S MAGNIFICENCE SETS UP COMFORTABLE KOLKATA WIN

Chasing a modest target of 161, Kolkata Knight Riders were jolted by Chris Lynn’s dismissal for a golden duck in the first over of their innings itself. However, if Rajasthan Royals thought that breakthrough would open the floodgates, they were grossly mistaken as Robin Uthappa came to the crease like a man possessed.

The right-hander was timing the ball sweetly from the very start as he effortlessly found the boundary ropes with some crisp hitting. Finding able support from Narine at the other end, Uthappa whacked two big sixes and six boundaries as he raced away to 48. He fell short of what would have been an excellent century after a catch-of-the-season contender from Ben Stokes at the long-on boundary but his innings had knocked the stuffing out of Rajasthan as Kolkata cantered to an easy win.

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IPL 2018 Preview: High flying Sunrisers Hyderabad face Chris Gayle-powered Kings XI Punjab test

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Kings XI take on RCB at the Holkar stadium in Indore. Image - KXIP/Twitter.

Two teams with impressive starts to the 2018 edition of the IPL will meet when Kings XI Punjab hosts the Sunrisers Hyderabad at Mohali on Thursday.

The visitors have been the in-form team in the IPL so far with three wins in as many matches to establish themselves at the top of the table.

On the other hand, Ravichandran Ashwin has enjoyed a great beginning to his Kings XI captaincy stint with two wins out of three. Both their wins have come at their home ground in Mohali.

TALKING POINTS

BATTLE OF THE AFGHAN SPIN PRODIGIES

Thursday’s clash will see two Afghanistan compatriots in Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman line up for opposing teams. Both the teenage spin prodigies have been excellent for their respective teams so far in the competition and as such, it will be interesting to watch who comes out on top at Mohali.

17-year-old Mujeeb became the youngest debutant in IPL history in the win against Delhi Daredevils and has been highly economical in his three matches so far. On the other hand, Rashid has continued to show why he is considered to be one of the very best in the T20 format with his fast-paced leg-spin.

GAYLE BRING THE X-FACTOR TO KINGS XI

After not being picked in the playing XI for the first two games for his new franchise, Chris Gayle was finally given his Kings XI debut in the side’s win over Chennai Super Kings.

The swashbuckling Jamaican came to the IPL with a brutal 33-ball 63 which pulverized the Chennai bowling attack. Gayle’s introduction has given a new dimension to the Punjab side and he will be the key to unsettling the Hyderabad bowling unit which has been the best in the competition by a country-mile.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin (C), Axar Patel, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Andrew Tye.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson (C), Manish Pandey, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Rashid Khan, Billy Stanlake, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddharth Kaul.

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IPL 2018: RCB coach Trent Woodhill believes Virat Kohli and AB de Villier's are cricket's Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

Sport360 staff 18/04/2018
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De Villiers has spoken about his equation with Kohli. Image - ICC/Twitter.

Having never played cricket professionally himself, Trent Woodhill has as demanding a job title as one could ask for. Along with being the fielding coach of IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Australian is also in charge of the ‘Batting Talent Development’.

For a side which includes arguably two of the very best batsmen going around in modern cricket in its ranks in the form of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, Woodhill couldn’t have asked for a better set of professionals to work with.

In an interview with Wisden India, Woodhill has described his amazement at working with the superstar pairing. Talking about Kohli, Woodhill believes that the India and Royal Challengers skipper deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as global sports superstars such as Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“He’s (Kohli) the most impressive sportsman I’ve had the pleasure to work with – in any sport. He’s in the same stratosphere as Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi. His approach to his own cricketing career and everything involved around it is extremely professional. It’s really a pleasure to work with,” Woodhill stated.

Explaining what separated Kohli from the rest of the pack, Woodhill said, “He’s (Kohli) definitely fitter than he’s ever been. What that allows you to do is under pressure, you’re able to replicate technique and replicate movement patterns.”

Woodhill believes Kohli is on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo.

Woodhill believes Kohli is on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo.

“So he’s less likely than others to play a lazy shot or not execute the way he’d like because his fitness and his mind is so sharp. And that’s where that brilliance lies. No doubt he’s extremely talented, so it’s not just hard work.”

While effervescent in his praise for Kohli, Woodhill has been equally impressed by De Villiers and believes the two batsmen are cricket’s equivalent to tennis’ all-time greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“I first met AB in 2009 when I was at Delhi, and he trains smarter than anybody I’ve worked with. He’s mastered the art of replicating what he needs to do in a period of time in training to be able to move on. In Kohli and AB, you’ve got the Nadal and Federer of the cricket world. It’s tough to pick who is the best of them. AB and Federer share a similar DNA I think, and the same with Nadal and Kohli. The point’s never dead for Nadal, and the point’s never dead for Virat. And AB, he finds a way as Federer does, in conditions where others struggle,” he pointed out.

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