When the Steven Smith-less Rajasthan Royals took the field against Kings XI Punjab, the team appeared to have conceded the psychological edge to the host.
And later in the evening, the way the Rajasthan batsmen suffered from a now-familiar ‘panic attack’, it only highlighted the Ajinkya Rahane-led team’s lack of collective self-belief, no matter how close it gets to victory.
As seen so many times this season, Rajasthan moved to a position of strength while chasing 182. Notwithstanding the brisk start given by Jos Buttler, the team stumbled once again. From 97 for two, Rajasthan slipped to 133 for five and never looked like crossing the line.
Both sides made three changes. Kings replaced Sam Curran, Sarfaraz Khan and Andrew Tye with Mujeeb, David Miller and Arshdeep Singh. Royals brought in Ashton Turner, Stuart Binny and Ish Sodhi for Smith, Liam Livingstone and K. Gowtham.
Like Kings, Royals, too, saw their top four batsmen get starts. Promoted to open the innings, Rahul Tripathi scored a half-century to match his opposite number K. L. Rahul’s efforts, but the team lost wickets in a heap at the ‘death’ and fell short by 12 runs. Overall, Kings won the big moments.
If the Punjab side eventually reached 182 for six, it was mainly due to the addition of 85 runs in the last seven overs.
After the team lost four wickets in the space of 13 deliveries, not many expected the last five balls from Dhawal Kulkarni to alter the result so much. R. Ashwin, later named Man-of-the-Match, hoisted sixes off the final two deliveries to take the hosts past the 180-run mark. As it turned out, those two blows from Ashwin proved crucial. And just when Royals were looking to accelerate, it was Ashwin who dismissed Sanju Samson and Tripathi to trigger a collapse.
Earlier, Rahul, who reached double-digits in the 10th over and found his first boundary in the 12th, was virtually a spectator for the better part of the innings. In fact, he faced 17 out of 42 dot-balls in Kings’ innings.
It was only after a pro-active Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal departed that Rahul changed gears in the company of David Miller.
Rahul and Miller added 85 runs off 52 balls, including 19 off Sodhi and 20 off Unadkat in successive overs to take the total to 136 after 15 overs.
Jofra Archer was the man who kept Kings in check.
He provided the breakthrough by sending back Gayle and returned to scalp Nicholas Pooran and Mandeep Singh in one over.
He also took the catches of Rahul and Mayank. Alas, Archer’s efforts stood undone by the below-par show of the Royals batsmen.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
K.L. Rahul c Archer b Unadkat 52 (47b, 3×4, 2×6), Chris Gayle c Samson b Archer 30 (22b, 2×4, 3×6), Mayank Agarwal c Archer b Sodhi 26 (12b, 1×4, 2×6), David Miller c Buttler b Kulkarni 40 (27b, 2×4, 2×6), Nicholas Pooran c Rahane b Archer 5 (6b), Mandeep Singh b Archer 0 (2b), R. Ashwin (not out) 17 (4b, 1×4, 2×6), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (b-8, lb-2, nb-1, w-1): 12; Total (for six wkts. in 20 overs): 182.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-38 (Gayle, 5.4 overs), 2-67 (Mayank, 8.4), 3-152 (Rahul, 17.1), 4-163 (Pooran, 18.3), 5-164 (Mandeep, 18.6), 6-164 (Miller, 19.1).
Kulkarni 4-0-37-1, Unadkat 4-0-48-1, Archer 4-0-15-3, Sodhi 4-0-41-1, Shreyas 4-0-31-0.
Rahul Tripathi c Mayank b R. Ashwin 50 (45b, 4×4), Jos Buttler c Pooran b Arshdeep 23 (17b, 1×4, 2×6), Sanju Samson b R. Ashwin 27 (21b, 2×4), Ajinkya Rahane c Shami b Arshdeep 26 (21b, 1×4), Ashton Turner c Miller b M. Ashwin 0 (1b), Jofra Archer c Rahul b Shami 1 (3b), Stuart Binny (not out) 33 (11b, 2×4, 3×6), Shreyas Gopal c Mayank b Shami 0 (1b), Jaydev Unadkat (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (lb-1, w-9): 10; Total (for seven wkts. in 20 overs): 170.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-38 (Buttler, 4.1), 2-97 (Samson, 11.4), 3-127 (Tripathi, 15.6), 4-131 (Turner, 16.3), 5-133 (Archer, 17.1), 6-148 (Rahane, 18.3), 7-160 (Shreyas, 19.1).
KINGS XI BOWLING
Arshdeep 4-0-43-2, Mujeeb 3-0-24-0, M. Ashwin 4-0-24-1, R. Ashwin 4-0-24-2, Shami 4-0-46-2, Mandeep 1-0-8-0.
Toss: Rajasthan Royals.
Man-of-the-Match: R. Ashwin.
Kings XI won by 12 runs.