After away win, KKR aim for home triumph against Rajasthan

After away win, KKR aim for home triumph against Rajasthan

The Knight Riders yesterday stopped the promising Rajasthan Royals two-match winning run with a clinical nine-wicket victory in Jaipur.

The two sides now meet again at the Eden Gardens tomorrow with the hosts emerging overwhelming favourites this time. The new-look Knight Riders under Gautam Gambhir started the season IV campaign shakily against Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings losing the battle from a winning position.

But the Knight Riders, who shunned local hero Sourav Ganguly, earned back the confidence of the city with an easy win over Deccan Chargers in their first home match. From there on, Knight Riders looked unruffled against the more fancied Royals in their away match yesterday that saw some failed strategies by the wily Shane Warne.

The Aussie legend raised many eyebrows by keeping an in-form Shane Watson at number four in the batting order. With Watson not opening, Rajasthan Royals failed to get the blistering start that is so needed in Twenty20s.

Fresh from his brutal 185 not out with a record 15 sixes against Bangladesh, Watson scored a breezy 22 from 13 balls. Bangladeshi skipper Shakib-al-Hasan, who saw Watson wreck his side a few days ago, did the Aussie all-rounder in after being hit by two sixes as Royals gave the Knight Riders a target of 160.

Chasing the tricky target, the Knight Riders did not look in any trouble at all. Jacques Kallis was at his consistent best for his third consecutive half-century -- this time an unbeaten 80.

Gambhir played a skipper's knock of 75 not out as he took charge on Warne who returned wicket-less conceding 28 for his four-over quota. The duo showed tremendous character to settle the issue by nine wickets for their second consecutive victory.

Form on their side, Knight Riders boast of a balanced and attacking line-up and have the best chance to fire with three consecutive home matches lined up next. Gambhir came into his own in the last match and showed what he has been known for. Now with runs under his belt, the left-hander can surely look forward to open the batting with Kallis.

In Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan and Shakib, the Knight Riders' batting runs deep and looks devastating.

Their bowling too has got a big boost after the addition of Aussie pace spearhead Brett Lee and Shakib in the last match. But even after the humiliating loss at home, it would be a folly to rule out the artist in Warne at the Eden.

"In Twenty20, you have got to win some and lose some. It's natural. I think we fell short by about 10 to 15 runs which would have given us more chance to fight out," Warne said, looking forward to their match in Kolkata.

Even opening the bowling with left arm rookie spinner Ashok Maneria last night seemed a Warne gamble that did not pay off. Warne opted for an extra bowler in Nayan Doshi even as Ranji winning bowlers Deepak Chahar and Pankaj Singh are warming the benches. In hindsight, Rajasthan would probably wish they had played Shaun Tait to create some wicket-taking opportunities.

For somebody who has inspired the side for a surprising win in the first edition, it will be a difficult to write off Warne, even as Kolkata appear favourites on home turf.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Jacques Kallis, Manvinder Bisla, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan, Shakib-al-Hasan, Iqbal Abdulla, Rajat Bhatia, Brett Lee, Laxmipathy Balaji, Ryan ten Doeschate, Brad Haddin, James Pattinson, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Shreevats Goswami, Pradeep Sangwan, Shami Ahmed and Jaidev Unadkat.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (c), Rahul Dravid, Amit Paunikar, Ashok Maneria, Shane Watson, Ross Taylor, Johan Botha, Abhishek Raut, Amit Singh, Siddharth Trivedi, Nayan Doshi, Shaun Tait, Jacob Oram, Stuart Binny, Deepak Chahar, Ankeet Chavan, Aakash Chopra, Aditya Dole, Samad Fallah, Faiz Fazal, Sumit Narwal, Pankaj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Salunkhe, Pinal Shah, Dishant Yagnik.
Field umpires: Aleem Dar, Ruffel Tiffin; TV: Sanjay Hajare; Match Referee: Andy Pycoft.