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Rahul seamlessly wipes out Knight Riders

All-star of the match

KL Rahul is a changed batsman. Sure, we've seen this big-hitting side of him for some time now, having first surfaced in the 2016 IPL. But this season, he has taken his strokeplay to the next level. With finesse in his use of the feet as well as the crease, Rahul has made bowling any length to him problematic. The bat swing is swift, the wrists are supple, the head is still, and the balance is impeccable. Simply put, Rahul's batting this season has been a blend of supreme class and a vast array of strokes.

His innings on Saturday against Kolkata Knight Riders exemplified each of those attributes. Rahul walked out to a tall task, with Kings XI requiring to pull off the second-highest chase at Eden Gardens in the IPL (they also hold the record). And he simplified the task by launching a savage assault on the KKR attack.

It's not often that you outscore Chris Gayle. Especially not when Gayle is in the middle of a dominant streak that has now given him scores of 63, 104* and 62*. But on Saturday, Rahul was vicious from the outset. He was a lot less aerial than Gayle - he had two sixes as opposed to Gayle's six - but in terms of impact, both batsmen stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

Rahul's precise footwork enabled him to cover for the swing Knight Riders' bowlers found as the evening set in. He was as adept at using the pace on the delivery as he flayed at width. Riding on his belligerence, Kings XI managed to slash the required rate by over one-and-a-half runs in just seven overs.

When he returned after a rain interruption had reduced the chase to 125 in 13 overs, Rahul hadn't cooled off one bit, crunching a a six and two fours off his first three balls, each shot more classy than the last.

The wow moment

The first two boundaries Rahul struck off Andre Russell to kick off the second over demonstrated just how well he was sussing out lengths and getting into position. Russell landed his first ball on a length and got it to swing away sharply. It was everything the bowler had wanted to do: draw the batsman forward and invite an error. But Rahul, fleet of foot, got a massive stride across, covered for majority of the swing, and negotiated the rest with a free extension of the arms, to punch smoothly through covers. When Russell dragged his length back for the next delivery, Rahul rode the bounce and deftly opened the face to glide it through third man.

The numbers

  • With 156 runs, Rahul is the highest scorer in the Powerplay this season. He also has the highest strike-rate during this phase: 205.26.

  • With 213 runs, Rahul is currently the third-highest scorer in IPL 2018. One-sixty eight of those runs (78.8%) have come via boundaries. Overall, Rahul hits a boundary every 2.5 balls.

  • Off the first 10 balls he faces, Rahul has a strike-rate of 208.00 - the highest among all players who have faced 50-plus balls.

Quotes

"KL looked like a million dollars, and well, Chris is Chris."
Kings XI captain R Ashwin succinctly sumps up the performance of his two openers

"I don't know what's happening, but I don't want to question what's going well for me. The approach is to stay aggressive and take the opposition down. The simpler you keep it, the clearer you will be as a batsman."
KL Rahul tries to make sense of his success