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Kolkata Knight Riders send Rajasthan crashing out


Some years ago, Laxmi Ratan Shukla surfaced as the lead player in India's search for an all-rounder. He disappeared into the huge expanses of domestic cricket after playing three one-day internationals. On Wednesday, we finally got to see a good all-round show from him as Kolkata Knight Riders scampered to a four-wicket win that sank defending champions Rajasthan Royals out of the Indian Premier League 2009.

With a hives of wickets falling around him as Kolkata Knight Riders chased just 102 for victory, Shukla stayed calm and collected as he made an unbeaten 48 (46 balls, three fours, two sixes) and shared a match-winning stand of 57 runs in eight overs with Ajit Agarkar (13 off 17) to steer the team home with three balls to spare.

Walking in at 37 for five in the 10th over, Shukla stood tall against every trick that Rajasthan Royals Skipper Shane Warne and the situation threw at him. Not for a moment did he seem under pressure and he came up with conventional and creative shots, taking a few risks along the way. Above all, it was a smart approach that smacked of a never-say-die spirit.

To give Warne due cricket, the Rajasthan Royals Skipper was aware that his team had made a sub-par score against steady bowling and electric fielding and made a clarion call to the fielders before they started their defence. And his squad responded magnificently in their bid to stay afloat in the race for the semifinals

Munaf Patel claimed two wickets up front while Amit Singh saw the back of the dangerous Brendon McCullum and panic seemed to strike Kolkata Knight Riders ranks. The scoring slowed down and it needed the calm and mature approach shown by Shukla and Agarkar for the team to be able to head home in slightly better frame of mind after a dismal tournament.

Earlier, Naman Ojha made 21 runs in the first over of the match against Brad Hodge but Rajasthan Royals were caught in a web of confusion, unable to make up their mind whether to seek a simple win that would still keep them in the race or for a big win that would make a huge impact to their net run rate.

Poor shot-selection and run out dismissals afflicted Rajasthan Royals through their innings and they were unable to make a score that could challenge Kolkata Knight Riders any more that it did in the end. On a day when their batsmen needed to fire big time, Rajasthan Royals had little to show for their determination.

Kolkata Knight Riders were indebted to South African paceman Charl Langeveldt who claimed three for 15 in his four overs on appearance in IPL 2009. Shukla was delightfully parsimonious in his four overs when he kept firing yorkers almost at will.

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