Rajasthan Royals 217 for 5 (Buttler 103, Samson 38, Narine 2-21) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 210 (S Iyer 85, Finch 58, Chahal 5-40) by seven runs
With nothing to lose, Umesh swung hard. Trent Boult’s final over cost 20 runs, including two sixes and a four, to leave 18 required off the last two. But Prasidh Krishna conceded only seven, and McCoy held his nerve with two wickets in four balls to seal a breathless win.
Buttler has started the season in prolific form but struggled for timing in the first two overs, reaching three off nine balls on a pitch he later described as “a little bit sticky at the start”. But he was soon into his groove, hitting Umesh for consecutive boundaries, toying with Varun Chakravarthy and slapping Mavi for six over the off side.
He reached fifty from the second ball he faced after the powerplay, and played with characteristic self-awareness about his strengths and weaknesses: he nudged Narine into gaps, hitting five runs off the nine balls he faced from him, but plundered 98 off 52 against the rest of the attack.
After Narine – wearing ‘150’ on his back, his total appearances for Knight Riders – had bowled Devdutt Padikkal, Buttler found support from Samson, whose cameo of 38 off 19 balls kept Royals moving. Buttler reached his hundred by belting Pat Cummins over long-on for six, but fell two balls later, top-edging a pull to fine leg.
Royals had reverted to a bowling-heavy line-up, with R Ashwin carded at No. 7, and threatened to fall away at the back end after Buttler’s dismissal. But Hetmyer ensured they finished well, hitting Andre Russell for consecutive sixes in the final over before carving the last ball of the innings through cover to steer Rajasthan to 217.
Finch, Shreyas start brightly
Finch had struggled badly heading into this match, averaging 25.19 with a strike rate of 121.33 in T20 cricket since the start of 2021. He kept his place in the side despite Sam Billings’ recovery from illness and after hitting the first ball of the chase to cover, he watched Hetmyer’s direct hit run Narine out before his new opening partner had faced a ball.
But he felt comfortable taking on Royals’ spinners, smoking the final ball of the powerplay for six off Ashwin and thrashing three boundaries in Chahal’s first over. He also tucked into McCoy and Prasidh with Shreyas playing second fiddle after a bright start of his own. When Finch skied the final ball of the ninth over to deep-backward point to fall for 58, the required rate was a shade over ten an over.
Shreyas had hit his first two balls for four off Trent Boult, playing with the attacking intent, and launched Ashwin for sixes via a reverse sweep and a clean blow down the ground.
After Nitish Rana holed out to long-off and Andre Russell’s off stump was pegged back by Ashwin’s perfect carrom ball, Shreyas had a life: he gloved a pull behind off McCoy, which wriggled out of Samson’s grasp as he dived to his left. He responded by hitting the next two legal deliveries for six and four, and swung Boult away for six more to leave Knight Riders needing 40 off the final four overs.
Chahal, McCoy seal it
Venkatesh had turned down a second run twice, to Shreyas’ visible annoyance, and decided to justify his decisions by trying to hit the first ball of Chahal’s final over for six. He skipped down the pitch, but was beaten by a googly; Samson redeemed himself, completing a simple stumping.
After Sheldon Jackson nudged a single, Chahal attempted to hide the ball wide outside Shreyas’ off stump and was penalised with a wide, but then surprised him by pitching one up, full and straight. It hit Shreyas on the pad, and the on-field lbw decision was upheld on review.
Knight Riders sent Shivam Mavi in at No. 8, perhaps due to Cummins’ weakness against spin. He looked to slog his first ball for six but holed out to long-on, and Cummins edged his first ball through to Samson to give Chahal a hat-trick – the first of the season.
The tail provided a twist, as Umesh belted Boult over long-on for two sixes, then slapped him through cover for four, taking the equation down to 18 off 12 balls. But neither Prasidh nor McCoy conceded a boundary, with McCoy’s slower balls to Sheldon Jackson (caught at fine leg) and Umesh (bowled looking to swing over midwicket) icing the victory.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98