All-rounder Shardul Thakur blitzed a half-century off 20 balls to rally the Kolkata Knight Riders in Thursday’s 81-run Indian Premier League win over Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Thakur hit nine fours and three sixes during his knock of 68, powering a recovery from a worrisome 89-5 in the 12th over.

Opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz propped up the innings with 57 off 58 balls but the Afghan’s dismissal, along with Andre Russell for a duck on the next ball, left Kolkata looking in trouble.

Thakur’s dominant show put the hosts back in control and a sixth wicket partnership with Rinku Singh notched 103 runs off only 47 balls.

“The top order did collapse, but credit goes to Gurbaz, he batted very well. And what can we say about Shardul. I’m anyway not used to talking so much in interviews, and after that innings I’m particularly speechless. It was an unbelievable innings,” said captain Nitish Rana during the post-match presentation.

“What people say about Shardul, of course he did bat really well, but the role Rinku played, holding onto one end while Shardul took it to the bowlers, that plan worked well and credit goes to them.”

Thakur’s knock was well supported by Singh’s 46 off 33, which included two boundaries and three sixes. The duo stitched together a partnership that eventually helped KKR get to a total of 204/7 at the end of 20 overs.

“Looking at the scorecard, anyone would say we are struggling out there. But at any point your subconscious mind has to take over and pre-empt what bowlers are going to bowl and what areas to hit into. Probably that’s a smarter thing to do, I tried to do it, and I was successful today,” Thakur said about his knock after he was adjudged the player of the match.

“You have to have the skills to do that at the higher level. But we work hard in the nets, we try to do the right things in practice. In the nets we play normally, then there’s a period where you have to slog it out. Nowadays, there’s a lot of coaching staff available who can do throwdowns and give you an option of range-hitting. So one day before a match you get a good practice so you know where you stand even before going into the game. And you know the pitches, nowadays it always suits the batter.”

Reactions as Shardul Thakur leads superb KKR batting recovery – ‘Lord does these things’

In their reply, Bangalore crashed to 123 all out as the home team’s spinners ran amok, with Varun Chakaravarthy picking 4-15.

Kolkata’s teenage leg spinner Suyash Sharma took 3-30 on his IPL debut and West Indies veteran Sunil Narine returned with figures of 2-16.

Virat Kohli (21) and Faf du Plessis (23) gave Bangalore a quick start, adding 44 off 29 balls before the bowling attack found its groove when Narine bowled the former Indian captain.

Chakaravarthy dealt du Plessis the same fate three balls later and returned in the eighth over to skittle out Glenn Maxwell (5) and Harshal Patel (0).

Kolkata next take on defending champions Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on Sunday and will have English opener Jason Roy available.

He was signed as replacement for Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who pulled out of the tournament earlier this week owing to his international commitments with Bangladesh.

With AFP inputs