Early Indian Premier League leaders Rajasthan Royals suffered a 37-run defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Wednesday despite Tom Curran’s late half-century.

The Royals had won their opening two matches of the competition but, just three days on from the highest successful run chase in IPL history against Kings XI Punjab, turned in a miserable display with the bat.

Rajasthan, set 175 to win, tallied 12 runs off their first over – led by Jos Buttler (21) – but the signs of their subsequent struggles were there as Steve Smith came unstuck at the hand of international team-mate Pat Cummins (1-13) in the second.

Another big dismissal followed in the fifth over as Sanju Samson dragged Shivam Mavi (2-20) to midwicket and Buttler’s departure to the same man prompted a flurry with two more wickets supplied by Kamlesh Nagarkoti (2-13) in the eighth over.

Rahul Tewatia had improbably inspired the dramatic victory over Kings XI last time out and similar heroics were required as he arrived at the crease.

There was a solitary six, but Tewatia (14) was beaten by Varun Chakravarthy (2-25), who found the middle stump, as the odds increasingly stacked against the Royals.

Curran made a fine 54 off 36, yet his side fell well short of the Knight Riders’ 174-6, a target which might have been even greater but for Jofra Archer’s (2-18) return to form with the ball.

The Knight Riders’ top score came from opener Shubman Gill (47), who hit five fours and a maximum before handing Archer a simple catch off his own bowling.

Andre Russell sought to pick up the mantle and accelerated Kolkata’s scoring with 16 runs off the 13th over, but he too departed as he picked out Jaydev Unadkat at the boundary attempting his fourth six of the innings.

It was left to Eoin Morgan to boost the total as he ended unbeaten on 34, surviving a scare off more dangerous Archer bowling, although it ultimately would have mattered little.
 

OUTSTANDING ARCHER

The Royals’ star bowler was a dismal 0-46 in their dramatic victory on Sunday, but he was in the mood this time. A rapid first over saw just one run and set the tone, before he crucially caught Gill off his own bowling at the start of his next stint.

Archer’s pace slowed Russell briefly and then saw Dinesh Karthik edge behind. He might have added the scalp of Morgan, too, had Tom Curran not dropped his England captain over the boundary.

“It’s a different wicket here,” Archer explained at the end of the innings. “You can hit length a bit more confidently.”

KKR KIDS DO DAMAGE

Cummins made a superb start against Smith, another of the world’s best bowlers following opponent Archer’s lead, but it was the Knight Riders’ younger stars who really sparkled.

Mavi and Nagarkoti are 21 and 20 respectively but both have missed long stretches in recent years due to back injuries, with the younger man not making his IPL debut until this season.

They shone against more experienced players on Wednesday, though, with Mavi crucially getting Samson and Buttler as the Royals started to recover from Smith’s wicket.