Jaipur: Seasons change, but the Kolkata Knight Riders are yet to be classified as seasoned campaigners of the Indian Premier League.
From the way they perform on the field, year after year, it appears that they have learnt little from the last four editions of the slambang tournament.
Sunday was yet another sorry tale for the Knights, an evening of disappointment at the jam-packed Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Faced with the task of returning to winning ways, the Knights lost the battle, against the Rajasthan Royals, by 22 runs.
This was the second straight defeat for the Knights, who had lost to the Delhi DareDevils in their opening match, at the Eden. For the Royals, it must be said that things are moving pretty smoothly as they picked up their second win in a span of three days.
After the home team, who were invited to make the first use of the wicket by Gautam Gambhir, put up a fighting total of 164 for five, the Knights effectively lost the match in the first three overs when they lost three wickets in successive deliveries with only eight runs on the board.
The middle-order batsmen, especially Manoj Tiwary (59), did make some effort to repair the damage but it proved futile. In the end, the Knights were all out for 142, with Tiwary being the last man out in the last ball of the match.
The man responsible for sending the Knights packing was medium pacer Amit Singh, who jolted the visitors by capturing two wickets in his first over. He first dismissed Jacques Kallis (5) on the fifth ball when the South African misjudged the slower delivery to get caught by the Royals’ skipper, Rahul Dravid, at mid off. The next ball saw Gambhir (0) returning to the pavilion as the angled ball had the Knights’ captain giving a catch to wicket-keeper Sreevats Goswami.
As if it was not enough damage for the Knights, they lost their third wicket in the first ball of the third over, from Ankit Chavan. Much was expected from Brendon McCullum (2) but the New Zealander missed the line to be trapped leg before.
While credit must go to the Royals’ bowlers, the Knights batsmen were guilty of not making proper use of a wicket where runs could be scored with a little more application.
Once they lost three wickets, there was not much hope left for the visitors and the exit of Debabrata Das (12) and Yusuf Pathan (15) made the contest a totally one-sided affair.
One actually felt sorry for Manoj Tiwary, who stood like the solitary soldier on the battlefront. He tried his best to rescue the Knights, but never found an able partner who could give him company. However, his 49-ball innings with seven fours had the stamp of class written on it.
Earlier, Ashok Menaria (40) and Brad Hodge (44) put on 64 runs for the fourth wicket to help the Royals post 164 for five after their top-order found themselves back into the pavilion early, inside first nine overs.
While Australian Hodge gave the home team the much needed momentum with some big hits in the middle overs, young Menaria kept the innings together with his sensible batting display.
Initially, the Knights looked to be in control when they removed openers Ajinkya Rahane (0) and Rahul Dravid (26), thanks to some good fielding. The Royals lost Rahane in the second over following a brilliant throw by Gambhir. Dravid tried to rescue his side from the early blow with some good shots including two sixes.
It was bewildering how the Knights left Shakib-al Hasan out of the playing XI. It defies common sense and hence its useless analysing the possible reasons for the ommission of the Asia Cup’s Man of the Tournament.
Dravid found himself run out while responding to a call for a quick single from Goswami. Rajat Bhatia then ended the challenge of Goswami who scored 23 facing 18 deliveries.
Hodge finally launched into an offensive in the 14th and 15th overs. He first hit two huge sixes off Pathan, one landing deep into the stands, and then hammered Kallis for two boundaries in the next over.
After Hodge was caught behind while trying to scoop a delivery from Lee, it was left to Menaria to play some attacking shots. So after two dreadful nights, the new dawn still eludes the Knights.