In their first home game of IPL 2023 at a packed Eden Gardens, Kolkata Knight Riders were in tatters at 89/5 in 11.3 overs. Royal Challengers Bangalore had David Willey and Karn Sharma picking up two wickets in as many balls, with many fearing an embarrassing defeat for KKR.
But Shardul Thakur, nearly got out on his first ball, also the hat-trick ball, as the inside edge went past leg-stump, slammed the joint-fastest fifty of the season in 20 balls through his sensational 68 off 28 deliveries. That stunning turnaround set the base for KKR to thrash RCB by 81 runs to get their first win of the tournament.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz dazzled in the start with a stroke-filled 57 while Rinku Singh chipped in with a vital 46, apart from sharing an important 103-run partnership off just 47 balls with Thakur to propel KKR to a mammoth 204/7.
In reply, Kolkata’s three mystery spinners — Varun Chakaravarthy (4/15), Sunil Narine (2/16), and debutant Suyash Sharma (3/30) took nine wickets between themselves to bamboozle the RCB batters and bowl them out for 123 in 17.4 overs.
Gurbaz began by feasting on width or short balls from Mohammed Siraj and being quick in cutting him through backward point, point, and short third man for boundaries.
But from the other end, Willey rocked Kolkata by castling Venkatesh Iyer through the gate with a short delivery angled in from around the wicket. On the very next ball, he got a length ball to nip away to beat the outside edge of Mandeep Singh and crash into off-stump.
There was no stopping Gurbaz though — pulling Akash Deep over a short fine leg for six, followed by whacking Willey over the same region for four. After Nitish Rana gloved a reverse sweep to wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik off Michael Bracewell, Gurbaz attacked him and Shahbaz Ahmed with his fierce sweeps, the last of which went for six, to bring up his fifty.
Karn then led Bangalore’s fightback with back-to-back strikes in the 12th over — Gurbaz reverse-swept to short third man while Andre Russell holed out to long-off for a golden duck. Then came Thakur who provided much-needed momentum to Kolkata’s innings — hitting two fours and six off Akash, before sweeping off Karn.
He used his feet very well in slamming Bracewell for a brace of sixes over the mid-wicket fence, before flat-batting off Willey for a boundary. Thakur brought up his maiden IPL fifty in 20 balls with a fierce pull in the gap between long-on and deep mid-wicket off Harshal Patel.
RCB’s death bowling woes came up to the fore yet again as full tosses, including one above the waist and half-volleys, were being easily dispatched by Thakur and Rinku for boundaries. Though Rinku gloved a bouncer from Harshal and Thakur pulled to mid-wicket off Siraj, Umesh Yadav hit a four through mid-off to ensure Kolkata crossed 200-mark.
Virat Kohli began the chase of 205 by clipping a half-volley outside leg stump from Umesh for four and ended the opening over with another boundary slashed in the gap between the third man and backward point.
He and Faf du Plessis hit Tim Southee for two fours and as many sixes each in the fourth over yielding 23 runs. But from there, the Narine-Chakaravarthy-Suyash annihilated the RCB challenge.
Kohli played across the line against Narine, but missed the ball and was castled through the gate in the fifth over. In the next over, du Plessis went for an expansive drive against a fuller ball from Chakravarthy but got an inside edge to his stumps.
In his next over, Chakaravarthy’s quicker googly beat the inside edge of Glenn Maxwell to crash into the stumps. Two balls later, he ended Harshal’s promotion by extracting an inside edge to crash into the stumps.
More misery followed Bangalore as Shahbaz picked out the deep point with his reverse sweep off Narine, as half the side was back in the hut in 8.5 overs. Bracewell put up some resistance with two boundaries but gloved a pull off Thakur to diving short fine leg.
Impact player Anuj Rawat tried to slog-sweep against Suyash but found the short third man. Three balls later, Suyash struck again when Dinesh Karthik went for the loft, but the outside edge flew to the short third man.
In his next over, Suyash had Karn sweeping to slip and got his wicket as replays showed a faint bottom edge. Varun finished off the proceedings by keeping his eyes on the ball and running to mid-wicket to complete a stunning caught and bowled dismissal of Akash.
Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 204/7 in 20 overs (Shardul Thakur 68, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 57; David Willey 2/16, Karn Sharma 2/26) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 123 all out in 17.4 overs (Faf du Plessis 23, Virat Kohli 21; Varun Chakaravarthy 4/15, Suyash Sharma 3/30) by 81 runs