In a period of seven overs, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine revived vintage mastery and reduced the visitors from 53 for no loss to 98 for 5. AFP

On April 8, 2019, Kolkata Knight Riders were looking at the IPL world from the top of the table. By then Royal Challengers Bangalore, six defeats down on a trot, had resigned to the 'we will enjoy our cricket from here on' predicament. In less than three weeks, following a dramatic turn of events, KKR find themselves sitting right alongside Virat Kohli's men with four wins apiece, but surely in no mood to join in the enjoyment that RCB have experienced in unexpectedly staying afloat in the competition.

It after all feels like only very recently they were in battle with Chennai Super Kings for the top spot. And the fact that it's only their slightly better net run-rate that sees them from occupying bottom is a sign of how haywire their IPL 2019 campaign's gone in recent times, so much so that they have had to reassess their tried, tested and successful formulas. They have changed their core XI, dropped their highest run-getter along with their most high-profile Indian bowler, tried out 18 of their 21 players in the squad, and provided the most unusual of break times to their players. Yet, they've failed to arrest the drastic and rapid slide.

On Thursday (April 25), they took another punt. They disturbed their highly-successful, yet unconventional opening pair. The decision to drop Sunil Narine in the order may have come about owing to Rajasthan Royals packing their line-up with three pacers capable of bowling in excess 145 kmph on regularity. It is well-established that the Trinidadian doesn't fancy too much pace coming at him. Or maybe, it was a shuffle to allow their frontline batters to get some extra time to settle in. Whatever it was, it didn't reap the desired return like most of their moves of late.

Barring Dinesh Karthik, who stroked his best-ever IPL score (97*), the rest struggled. In the powerplay, a phase that KKR had mastered to merry in the past, they finished with a below-par score of 32 for 2. And with Andre Russell too coming a cropper despite being let off twice, the eventual total was a shade below average - 175.

Nonetheless, till the 13th over of their defence, they had their foot ahead. In a period of seven overs, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine revived vintage mastery and reduced the visitors from 53 for no loss to 98 for 5. And with only Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal and Jofra Archer left in the Royals line-up with any batting credentials, it looked like KKR might just be on the cusp of turning the tide. But true to form, it wasn't to be.

In a very IPL-esque turn of events, Royals found a teenage superstar emerge on the scene and shut the door on Kolkata's hopes. Riyan Parag, the 17-year-old, put to fore maturity that would be enviously desired by even some experienced cricketers. While wickets fell and the required rate mounted, he chose to close in on the target by rotating the strike, working the ball into open areas on the field, and did give the odd charge. Eventually, he swung his bat too far while attempting a pull and was dismissed hit wicket in the closing moments of the game. But Parag had done enough to nudge his team close to victory. And aided by Archer's lusty blows, the Royals got over the line. The youngster had also done enough to leave his captain very impressed. "Riyan Parag, isn't he an impressive young man? He played very composed like a seasoned campaigner," he would say.

The Royals' win has also ensured that KKR and RR find themselves at the exact same place on the points table right now, but the extreme contrast of emotions at the end of the match at Eden Gardens, was a sign of how their respective campaigns have evolved.

Captain Karthik's views echoed his team's rollercoaster ride so far and the precarious position they find themselves in.

"It's very difficult (to take this defeat)," Karthik said after their final-over loss. "I'm not going to sit here and say that we played well. It's very disappointing. We tried hard but we were just not able to cross the line," he said, very aware that his team is just a loss away now from entering the dreaded, "we will enjoy our cricket from here on" stage.