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IPL 2023: Shardul Thakur turns into king of Eden Gardens with match-winning blitz

The full house at Eden Gardens, excited by the presence of Shahrukh Khan, ended up celebrating jubilantly as Kolkata Knight Riders beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 81 runs in their first home game of IPL-16. Led by a spectacular all-round show by Shardul Thakur, who smashed a 20-ball fifty and picked up a wicket, the KKR opened their account this season in style.

However, it was not a smooth ride for KKR as the fragility of their top order was exposed before Thakur and southpaw Rinku Singh stitched a century partnership to help them post an imposing 204/7. In reply, RCB were shot out for 123 in 17.4 overs.

Shardul was ruthless, smearing the RCB bowlers to all corners of the ground. Poor Michael Bracewell bore the brunt the most, as he was thumped for successive sixes. He spared none, and a bludgeoning drive down the ground off Mohammed Siraj was arguably his finest shot of all. Despite wickets falling at the other end, Thakur was crystal-clear in his approach and never shied away from playing the big hits. A couple of his flat-batted shots, akin to a tennis smash, left the 60,000-odd spectators in awe. This season, Thakur’s 20-ball half-century was also the joint-fastest fifty (alongside Jos Buttler).

This was after England left-armer David Willey had pegged them down in the powerplay, as he returned with figures of 3-1-9-2, knocking over Venkatesh Iyer and Mandeep Singh in a rare double-wicket maiden in T20. He was not express quick, but purchased movement both ways. He used the wobble-seamer to good effect, as did he swing the ball with a conventional grip.

It was down to Rahmanullah Gurbaz, the opener from Afghanistan to keep the innings together, only for Karn Sharma to snared him for 57. Soon, they lost Andre Russell to an utterly irresponsible shot. He swung hard at a looping leg-break around the off and miscued to Virat Kohli at long-off.

Mystery code
Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis got RCB off to a pulsating start, ransacking 44 runs in 4.4 overs. Hopes of a thriller abound, That’s when Sunil Narine struck, clean-bowling him through the gate, with Kohli trying to whip him through the leg-side. This was the fourth time Kohli fell prey to Narine in the IP