And we have a win! The Rajasthan Royals have finally managed a victory after two woeful losses. With this victory, they’ve also made some headway in the Points Table and have kept their playoff chances alive (definitely on life support though). From the dreaded 8th spot, they’ve jumped right up to the 5th spot, and have made a minor improvement in NRR too. And also, they’ve effectively knocked out the most hated team of the IPL, Chennai Super Kings. So definitely a successful night for them!
This was as close to a perfect team performance as the Royals have gotten thus far. Let’s see how the cards played out.
CSK won the toss (why am I not surprised?) and unsurprisingly chose to bat first. They still didn’t pick Tahir in the XI, and instead chose to replace Bravo with a like-for-like in the form of Josh Hazlewood. As expected, RR made Jaydev Unadkat sit out and brought in Ankit Rajpoot. I would’ve liked to see Akash Singh instead, but that’s fine, at least they removed Unadkat, I’ll take that.
Jofra Ar-Cherry On Top
As soon as the CSK innings started, the awkwardness was shining through. Both Sam Curran and Faf Du Plessis were perplexed by Jofra Archer’s pace and variations, but luckily escaped his first over. Steve Smith finally abandoned his Pace-Spin strategy in the powerplay, and chose to go with pace from both the ends, and bought on Rajpoot. He did well not to let the pressure release, and made his only over of this game count. Displaying an attacking mentality, Archer was made to bowl the next over too in the hope of a wicket. And sure enough, on the very last delivey of his over, a restless Faf Du Plessis played a careless shot and an airborne Jos Buttler completed a stunning catch at short cover. RR had taken the lead already.
Kartik Ty-agitation for Watto
Continuing the strategy of pace from both the ends, the ball was now handed to Kartik Tyagi. After 3 deliveries, the new man Shane Watson was up against him. Kartik bowled one of his trademark bouncers, but Watto pulled it away for 4. And here we saw a side I didn’t think Kartik Tyagi had. He actually stared down Shane Watson! Whaaaat. He stared at him with fiery eyes and then gave him a little smirk. I mean, this is a guy who doesn’t even celebrate his wickets, so it was definitely shocking. But this is exactly the kind of aggression you want to see from your fast bowlers.
Watson was clearly put off by this too, since he edged a ball straight back for a fortunate four runs. His luck didn’t last long though, and on the very next ball, Watson smashed a ball straight into the hands of The King (That’s His Highness Rahul Tewatia, for anybody who didn’t know) at short mid wicket. I really feel Kartik Tyagi can be our Bumrah story. I see the future of the Indian National Team in his bouncers and yorkers. Just his fielding needs a bit of work, but then again, when the best pacer in the world, Jofra Archer makes U-13 level fielding mistakes consistently, I suppose that’s alright then.
Ben Stok-escorts CSK out of the mess
Really sticking to the all-pace powerplay strategy, Ben Stokes came on to bowl as early as the 5th over. If there was a bad move by RR in this game, this was it. Stokes, probably still carrying a niggle from the last game, and got hit for a six off the very first ball. Ambati Rayudu got in on the action too, and hit two fours to end the over. 16 came off it, Curran had gotten set, and Rayudu had gained some momentum.
Shreyas Go-palpable tension for CSK
After Stokes’ over, it seemed like RR had blundered away a good start, but they had other plans. In the next 3 overs, Kartik Tyagi, Shreyas Gopal and The King held CSK to just 10 runs. The King even twisted his leg or something, but in spite of that, he put in a solid ove and really kept the pressure on. And sure enough, on the very first delivery of the next over, Sam Curran edged one back to Sanju Samson, who unfortunately dropped the catch. It didn’t hurt them but at all though, because on the very next delivery, Sam Curran popped up a dolly that was gobbled up by Buttler at long-off. Shreyas Gopal had gotten the fruit of his labour.
Gopal is known for taking consecutive wickets. And this trend looked like continuing when Ambati Rayudu was adjudged LBW on Gopal’s very next delivery! Unfortunately, it was missing leg by a mile and the decision was overturned. You have to hand it to Gopal though, for creating 3 wicket chances on 3 deliveries.
RR’s spin twins were in full force now, as The King continued his spell in the next over. Characteristically, he kept things very tight, and characteristically, Dhoni let him keep things very tight. Rayudu, on the other hand was getting hasty, and in a slapdash effort, handed Sanju Samson a chance at redemption, which he accepted with open hands. Well, open gloves. CSK had well and truly collapsed.
Dhoni And Jadeja….
After that, the fabled partnership of Dhoni and Jadeja graced the crease. I can’t help but connect their 2019 World Cup Semi Final performance with this game. MSD taking his sweet time, no sense of urgency whatsoever. Jadeja trying hard on the other end, but still failing to take his team over the line. MSD even got run out at the striker’s end today, just like in that game.
Their total was made somewhat less laughable by Jofra Archer’s crazy misfields. He let a regulation ball collection go through for 4. Then he fumbled while fielding again in the same over, only this time, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Royals. Because of the misfield, MSD went back for a 2nd run and ended up getting run out by the barest of margins. Jofra also dropped an absolute sitter in the last over. It didn’t really affect the score, yes, but as an international cricketer you can’t be putting those down. Anyway, his bowling more than makes up for it, so I ain’t complaining too much.
CSK ended up with just 125 on the board, the lowest score in IPL 2020 while batting first. So, the Royals effectively had the easiest task any chasing team had had in this IPL.
Stokes Blitzes Out, Then Gets Out
They opened with Stokes and Uthappa again, ignoring the calls for Jos Buttler to be pushed up in place of Stokes. This looked like being a good decision after all, when Stokes went all out attacking and got 3 fours, but right after his last boundary, he got cheeky and attempted a poor shot which resulted in the crashing of his stumps. This was still fine though, as the target was pretty small, and Stokes did manage to get them off to a flying start. All they needed to do from here was play easy and safe, and not attempt any crazy shots.
And so, Robin Uthappa attempted a crazy shot in the very next over and practically gift-wrapped and home-delivered his wicket to CSK. ‘How have they lost 2 wickets already? I mean, even in a 120 run chase they’re doing this clownery? I swear now if they- Sanju Samson is out too. Ah, this team.’
Yup, the Rajasthan Royals, while chasing just 125, were 3 wickets down by the 4th over, losing all 3 wickets in a matter of just 2 runs. The score stood at 28-3, and a game that looked like a guaranteed win for RR had turned into anybody’s game, with CSK now having an edge. Luckily for RR, the two batsmen they would want at the crease in such a situation were exactly the ones present there. Jos Buttler and Steve Smith.
Buttler-Smith – The Partnership Which Saved RR’s Sinking Ship
These are the 2 most experienced batsmen in the Royals camp, and if anyone could rescue them from this mess, it was these two. They played beautifully, pacing their innings perfectly. They looked for singles, and never took a single wrong step. Eventually, the roles became clearer. Steve Smith just calmly looked for a single everytime he faced a ball, because Jos Buttler had started to take the bowlers for a ride, and had stepped on the gas. When a win was all but secured, both of them also started to play some cheeky shots, with Smith’s sweep off Piyush Chawla being my personal favourite.
Smith showed his natural game today – that of an anchor. The situation today is exactly the kind that Steve Smith thrives in. It was more like an ODI than a T20 game. Runs were needed at a mild rate, and the key was to not lose wickets. However good Smith was, the star of the show today was definitely Jos Buttler. First, he pulled out two great catches in the field. Remember that he’s a wicket-keeper so he’s not exactly used to doing that without gloves. And then the batting was simply sensational. He didn’t take any silly risks when unnecessary, and every shot oozed class. If this man doesn’t deserve to open the innings, I don’t know who does.
I realise 2 hours have passed since I started writing this. It felt like 10 minutes though!
Ohhhhk, this seems to be my biggest blog yet! Testament to how good I’m feeling after a well-fought well-deserved Royals win. We still have a chance to make it to the playoffs, and I firmly believe we can pull it off. With a bit of luck, and an NCB raid into the locker of whoever made Buttler bat down the order, the Royals can make the playoffs in IPL 2020.