New Delhi:Defending champions Rajasthan Royals were knocked out of the Indian premier League after Kolkata Knight Riders pulled off an upset four-wicket victory in a low-scoring thriller here today.
After restricting Royals to a modest 101 for nine, the Knight Riders recovered from a stunning top order collapse to romp home with three balls to spare in a nerve-wracking contest which went down to the wire at the Kingsmead.
All-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla turned out to be the hero for the Knight Riders with an unbeaten 48 off 46 balls while paceman Charl Langeveltd (3/15) did the damage with the ball to ensure that his team finished the tournament on a winning note.
Rajasthan, who desperately needed a win to keep their semi-final hopes alive, paid a heavy price for a poor batting display which eventually saw them crashing out of the tournament. Naman Ojha was the top scorer with 22.
The Royals thus finished their IPL II engagements with 13 points from 14 matches while Kolkata, who were out of the reckoning, completed their engagements with 7 points.
The Kolkata Knight Riders run chase began on a disastrous note as they lost five wickets for just 37 runs by the first 10 overs with most of their experienced batsmen in the hut.
The left-handed Sourav Ganguly (0) was the first to depart being dismissed by Munaf Patel while captain Brendon McCullum (9) joined him in the pavilion with young Amit Singh taking his wicket.
The in-form Brad Hodge (6), Yashpal Singh (6) and David Hussey (9) fell in quick succession to leave Kolkata struggling at 37 for five.
A mix-up which resulted in the run out of Shoaib Shaikh immediately after the strategy break compounded the misery for the Knight Riders.
But Shukla and Ajit Agarkar put on a crucial unbeaten 57-run partnership to steer the team home much to the relief of his teammates.
Earlier, the contest got off to a dramatic start with Rajasthan Royals clobbering Hodge for as many as 22 runs in the very first over with the diminutive opener Naman Ojha belting three sixes to set the tempo for his team.
But the script changed very swiftly for the defending champions as South African paceman Charl Langeveldt, playing his first match in the tournament, struck in his very first ball by scalping opener Rob Quiney (1).
Quiney tried to pull the ball and only managed to top edge it to wicket keeper Shoaib Shaikh who latched on to a simple catch.
After the flourishing opening over, Rajasthan Royals suddenly found themselves in the pit as they lost Ojha (22), Swapnil Asnodkar and Johan Botha (8) in quick succession to be left tottering at 42 for four by the end of the fifth over.
While Ojha was done in by a short pitched delivery by Langeveldt, Asnodkar was needlessly run out trying to go for a non-existent run.
Botha was promoted in the batting order to steady the rocking ship but he also could not survive long, being cleaned up by Ajit Agarkar in his very first ball.
With wickets tumbling at regular intervals, the scoring rate dropped down quite a bit as Niraj Patel and Yusuf Pathan were quite content in dropping anchor and repairing the early damage.
Langaveltd came back for his second spell and snapped up his third wicket by getting rid of Patel who completely mistimed his shot and Sourav Ganguly held on to a well-judged catch just before the strategy break.
The Royals suffered a huge blow immediately after the break when dangerman Pathan (9) was run out, effectively shattering the team's hopes of piling up a big total.
A few balls later, the defending champions suffered another jolt when Tyron Henderson, reputed to be a big hitter, was run out off a direct hit from David Hussey.
Captain Shane Warne joined the action with his team at a precarious 62 for seven and it was important for his team to play out the 20 overs and take the score to the 100-run mark.