With six wins in seven, Ben Stokes in prime form with bat and ball, MS Dhoni showing he ain't done yet, Steve Smith being, well, Steve Smith and Rahul Tripathi playing one gem of an innings after another, the Rising Pune Supergiant are turning into a team to fear in IPL 2017. Up to third in the IPL 2017 points table, after a big victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday, RPS are a team that look capable of topping it all come the end of the league phase.
Momentum is a great thing to have in the IPL, and RPS are building a head of steam at just the right time, with KKR the latest side to fall to this Smith-led side.
Asked to bat first, the Kolkata Knight Riders, coming off a loss to the Sunrisers Hyderabad, stuttered in their batting, managing a below-par 155/8 in their 20 overs.
Thanks to a lightning innings from Tripathi (93, 52b, 9x4, 7x6), RPS eased to victory to join KKR on 14 points from 11 matches.
KKR came hard at RPS early in the second innings, trying to power through this batting lineup much like they had RCB's when they had to defend a small total at the Eden Gardens.
However, after a couple of decent overs, which saw Ajinkya Rahane (11, 9b, 2x4) dismissed courtesy a wonderful short ball from Umesh Yadav, Tripathi took over, taking Nathan Coulter-Nile, who seemed to be a little off his game after getting hit on the helmet while batting, for 19 runs.
That was followed by a 17-run over off Umesh Yadav, and with 47 runs on the board in just four overs, it was happy days for RPS.
Smith (9, 9b, 1x6) unnecessarily gave his wicket away in the next over, castled by Chris Woakes while going for a big shot, when all he needed to do was get Tripathi back on strike. But, despite those two big blows, thanks to the opener, RPS finished the Powerplay on 74/2.
With the required run rate below six an over from there, there were no worries for RPS, with Tripathi making those jaws drop by hitting Kuldeep Yadav for three sixes in a row.
Earlier, KKR just kept losing wickets at the wrong time. With Robin Uthappa ruled out of the game because of a hamstring injury, Sheldon Jackson came in at No.3 after Sunil Narine (0, 6b) was picked up by Jaydev Unadkat in the first over of the match.
Jackson (10, 9b, 2x4) and Gautam Gambhir looked to steady the innings and give the KKR middle order a platform to build on, but the former fell in the final ball of the fourth over, hitwicket off Washington Sundar, after taking a step too deep.
Gambhir (24, 19b, 3x4, 1x6), thinking counter-attack was the best way forward, spanked three fours and a six in the next two overs, but holed out in the deep off Sundar while going for another maximum.
That left KKR in a spot of bother, and that bother only increased when Imran Tahir trapped Yusuf Pathan (4, 9b) in front.
Manish Pandey (37, 32b, 4x4, 1x6) and Colin de Grandhomme went into counter-attack mode again with a really nice partnership of 48 from five overs, with De Grandhomme, who only played one dot ball in his innings, before his wicket, quite impressive in his knock of 36 (19b, 3x4, 2x6), showing why he has a reputation of being a really effective T20 batsman.
Suryakumar Yadav (30 n.o., 16b, 2x4, 2x6) then gave the crowd something to cheer about towards the end with a nice little innings – during which there was also a scary collision between Stokes and Smith, as both went for a catch on the boundary line – to push that total beyond 150, even if it proved to be well short of what was needed.
KKR vs RPS IPL 2017 scorecard:
Toss: RPS, who chose to bowl.
KKR: 155/8 in 20 overs.
RPS: 158/6 in 19.2 overs.
Result: RPS won by four wickets with four balls remaining.
Bowling: RPS: Jaydev Unadkat 4-1-28-2; Ben Stokes 4-0-24-1; Washington Sundar 2-0-18-2; Shardul Thakur 3-0-21-0; Imran Tahir 4-0-36-1; Dan Christian 3-0-23-1.
KKR: Nathan Coulter-Nile 3-0-41-0; Umesh Yadav 4-0-23-1; Chris Woakes 4-0-18-3; Sunil Narine 4-0-28-1; Kuldeep Yadav 4-0-35-1; Colin de Granhomme 0.2-0-7-0.
Fall of wickets: KKR: 0/1, Sunil Narine (1 over); 19/2, Sheldon Jackson (4 overs); 40/3, Gautam Gambhir (5.5 overs); 55/4, Yusuf Pathan (9.1 overs); 103/5, Manish Pandey (14.1 overs); 119/6, Colin de Grandhomme (16.2 overs); 129/7, Chris Woakes (17.4 overs); 152/8, Nathan Coulter-Nile (19.3 overs).
RPS: 11/1, Ajinkya Rahane (1.4 overs); 59/2, Steve Smith (5 overs); 88/3, Manoj Tiwary (8.2 overs); 131/4, Ben Stokes (13.3 overs); 139/5, MS Dhoni (16.1 overs); 150/6, Rahul Tripathi (18.4 overs).