Images from Thursday's IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals, in Kolkata.
Under-fire skipper Dinesh Karthik silenced his critics with a career-best 97 not out, but it wasn’t enough to take Kolkata Knight Riders past Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League match, in Kolkata, on Thursday.
A late onslaught by Riyan Parag (47) and Jofra Archer (27) dashed whatever hopes the home side may have entertained as Rajasthan Royals won by three wickets, with four balls to spare.
Karthik had earlier helped Kolkata recover from an atrocious start and post a competitive 175 for six in their must-win fixture. However, just when Rajasthan looked down and out, reduced to 123 for six in the 16th over, and all their top order batsmen back in the hut, the 17-year-old Parag scripted a remarkable turnaround with Archer.
The duo put on 44 runs for the seventh wicket off just 21 balls to put paid to Kolkata’s hopes.
Assam all-rounder Parag, who was hit on the head earlier on, hammered 47 from 31 balls before he was dismissed in unfortunate circumstances. He was out hit wicket, as he hit the stumps with the bat after missing a pull shot.
The Royals needed 54 runs from the final five overs, with just four lower order batsmen to come and the match definitely for KKR's taking at that stage. But the script changed altogether and the home side slumped to their sixth loss on the trot.
Archer, playing his last IPL match of the season as he is leaving for England, hit a six to win it for the Royals, who finished on 177 for 7 in 19.2 overs.
With the victory, Rajasthan Royals moved up a place to seventh, with eight points from 11 matches, the same as KKR, who remain sixth from the same number of matches.
Three teams -- KKR, Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore -- now occupy the last three slots in the league table with eight point each from 11 matches and all still have a theoretical chance of making it to the play-offs, provided they do not lose any of their remaining three matches.
Rajasthan were off to a flying start, openers Sanju Samson (22) and Ajinkya Rahane (34) scoring 53 off the first five overs but a sudden batting collapse saw then being reduced to 63 for 3 in the eighth over, losing three wickets in two overs for just 10 runs.
Spinners Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla threatened to change the complexion of the game with a burst of two wickets each.
Narine had Rahane leg before in the sixth over with a gem of delivery which turned a bit from the middle before Chawla got the wicket of Samson in the next over, the googly finding the timber through the gate.
Captain Steve Smith (2) was out in the eighth over to Narine.
The Royals were looking down the barrel with the match drifting towards KKR but Parag and Archer enacted a memorable run chase.
Earlier, under pressure to perform after a string of five straight defeats, the World Cup-bound Karthik promoted himself to No. 4, shrugging off criticism, and smashed nine sixes and seven fours in his 50-ball unbeaten knock, as KKR hit top gear at the backend of the innings, scoring 126 from the last 10 overs and 75 off the last five overs.
On a day their impact player Andre Russell looked lacklustre in his run-a-ball 14, during which he was dropped twice, it was a one-man show by Karthik, who went berserk against the likes of Jaydev Unadkat and Shreyas Gopal.
He seized the momentum in the 11th over when he hit Shreyas Gopal for a six followed by three boundaries in an over that yielded 25 runs. After that KKR did not look back.
Karthik completed his fifty off 35 balls and smashed Jofra Archer for successive sixes in the penultimate over before bettering his previous best of score 86 when he went berserk against Unadkat, hitting him for two sixes and one four in the final over.
Unadkat conceded 50 runs for his one wicket and was the most expensive of the lot as he undid all the good work done by Varun Aaron (2/20), who had a fine new ball spell of 3-1-10-2.
Put in to bat, KKR got off to an atrocious start and were 32 for 2 in the powerplay overs against Rajasthan Royals’s all-out pace attack.
Playing only his second match this season, Aaron extracted pace and swing from the fast-paced Eden track and removed both the openers Chris Lynn (0) and Shubman Gill (14) cheaply.
He set up Lynn brilliantly with his first two balls before bowling a delivery that sharply came back as the Australian played it on to his stumps in a wicket-maiden first over.
Then the talented Gill had no answer to negotiate an in-swinger and was completely beaten by pace to see the ball clip his bails.
Archer capped a superb powerplay for Royals with another maiden as the dispirited KKR found themselves going nowhere and seemed to be losing the plot before skipper Karthik revived them at the backend of the innings.