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Faulkner rocks on birthday

Ajinkya Rahane on way to his 72, on Tuesday

Abu Dhabi: Eyes closed, Gautam Gambhir prayed in the Kolkata Knight Riders’ dugout as his team made a mess of the chase, against Rajasthan Royals, on Tuesday.

The cricketing God, if there’s any, listened to Gambhir’s prayers, but only temporarily. The Knights first tied the match but then went on to lose it on the ‘boundary count’ after the Super Over, too, ended on a tie.

There was little difference between the teams on Tuesday, but it seems that the Royals have an edge over the Knights every time a Super Over is played. In 2009, too, the Royals had defeated the Knights in a thrilling contest, which went down to the one-over eliminator, in Cape Town.

In Tuesday’s Super Over, the Knights batted first to post 11 for two on the board. The Royals then scored the same number of runs without losing a wicket. With the Super Over being inconclusive, things went down to the ‘boundary count’ where the Royals outnumbered the Knights.

Gambhir returned to his favourite slot, that of the opener, to help his team chase the 153-run target. Credit to the left-hander that despite being in terrible form in the first four matches of the tournament, he didn’t go into a shell and adopted a positive approach.

Knights lost their other opener, Manvinder Singh Bisla, in the fourth over, but Gambhir held on steadily to one end. His 45-run innings ultimately proved to be invaluable as the chase became extremely difficult towards the end.

Jacques Kallis could only contribute 13 and Manish Pandey came up with just 19. It was Suryakumar Yadav’s quickfire 31 which took the Knights closer to the total.

Along with Shakib-al Hasan, Yadav added a crucial 49 runs to the team total as the Knights managed to reach a position of strength in the business end of the chase. They required 52 off the last five overs. But courtesy some good hitting, the equation came down to just 16 required off the last 12 balls.

The match wouldn’t have rolled on to the Super Over and the Knights perhaps would have won had James Faulkner not bowled a brilliant 19th over. The left-arm seamer from Australia gave away just four runs in the over and took as many as three wickets. Tuesday, incidentally, was also Faulkner’s birthday. The way he later returned to bowl excellently in the Super Over, there’s only one thing to say: Faulkner did have a party on the field on his birthday.

With 12 needed off the last over the Knights somehow scampered to the 152 for eight to tie the match.

Earlier, Ajinkya Rahane paced his knock perfectly and lasted almost the entire 20 overs to ensure that the Royals were in control of their innings.

They didn’t get off to a great start, losing opener Karun Nair in the third over. The 22-year-old went for an ambitious heave off Ranganath Vinay Kumar but missed the incoming delivery completely to see his stumps rattled.

The loss of wicket, however, didn’t create any panic among the Royals batsmen. As young Sanju Samson joined Rahane at the crease, the duo seemed calm and assured about their job.

Such was their confidence that Samson had the audacity to attack Morne Morkel in the sixth over of the innings. He stole four boundaries in that over as the tall South African pacer went on to concede 20 runs.

Gambhir, however, was shuffling his bowlers well and perhaps that got him the wicket of Samson. The talented batsman from Kerala tried to play Shakib-al Hasan off the backfoot, but the ball evaded the bat, hit the pad and rolled on to the stumps.

When the second Royals wicket fell, they still had 12-odd overs to bat. The total then was just 54 and so they had quite a job on their hands. The run rate, too, wasn’t the ideal one for a T20 match.

But captain Watson, the No.4 batsman, and Rahane opted for safety first as they shunned the big hits and dealt mostly in singles.

They broke free in the 14th over when Watson slammed three fours off leggie Piyush Chawla.