Wow! What a game! This game had more turns than that street in San Fran! The Rajasthan Royals overcame all odds and chased down an absolutely humongous target against the table-toppers and the best bowling attack of the tournament! This is the kind of cricket this team deserves to play. This is the kind of cricket Ben Stokes deserves to play. This win may not result in RR making it to the playoffs, but it is a huge positive nonetheless. Let’s see how things went down!
Jofra Acher (I gotta write praises about him evey single game, how many creative titles can I even physically come up with at this point)
Rajasthan Royals were put in to field first by Kieron Pollard, who has been filling in as Mumbai’s captain in the absence of an injured Rohit Sharma. The first over was bowled by the one and only, Sir Jofra Archer. Carrying on from where he left off in the previous game, he demanded that two slips be kept fo him. That’s an extremely attacking approach, and a wicket was expected. And sure enough, after the man-in-form Quinton De Kock smashed a six, Jofra made a staggering comeback on the very next ball and sent his stump cartwheeling. QDK was the most dangerous name on the MI lineup today, and his wicket was the most crucial for RR. Apart from this, Jofra also bowled a brilliant 19th over where he gave away just 3 runs and picked up Saurabh Tiwary’s wicket.
Fly Archer Airlines – We Bring You Value, At Its Best
But neither of those were even Archer’s biggest feats in this game! The most shocking moment of this game came when Ishan Kishan cut away a Kartik Tyagi delivery to long leg. It was bound to be a six. But but but, guess who the man standing there was? Yes that’s right, our superstar Jofra Archer was the fielder and he managed to pull off an insane one-handed catch behind his head highly reminiscent of Ben Stokes’ catch in the first game of the 2019 Wold Cup against South Africa. Keep in mind that this is a guy who has dropped 3 catches (absolute sitters at that) in a row, and made U-13 level fielding errors consistently throughout the season. But this catch negates all that, it’s got to be the catch of the season I’m sure. Archer has been the most valuable player this season, not just from the Rajasthan Royals, but from every single player in this IPL. He’s been the best.
The Royal Spin Twins
We all talk about partnerships while batting, but bowling partnerships are just as impotant. Bowlers function best in pairs. A living example are RR’s spin twins – Shreyas Gopal, and The King, His Highness Rahul Tewatia himself. They have worked together this season to restrict the opposition in the middle overs. Yes, the wickets have been a little hard to come by, but that wasn’t the case in this game. Shreyas Gopal got two wickets in very quick succession to completely change the tide of the game in the middle overs. And precious wickets at that. A set, dangerous-looking Suryakumar Yadav and a captaincy-motivated Kieron Pollard are not names you want at the crease. The King did well for himself too, with extremely economical figures of just 25 runs from his 4 overs.
If Everything Was So Perfect, How Did Mumbai Even Reach 195?
Yeah I’ve talked about the good. Let’s get to the bad and the ugly now. Ankit Rajpoot. People were criticising the captain Steve Smith for only giving one over to Rajpoot in the previous games. Well, it looks like Steve wanted to prove himself right. So he gave 4 overs to Rajpoot today, and the result? 60 runs without a single wicket. Yeah, that’ll teach you to question your captain’s decisions! Kartik Tyagi’s poor run of form continued today, with him being on the wong end of a Hardik Pandya onslaught, going for 27 runs in that over. It seems like Kartik has really been influenced by Jofra Archer, and keeps trying to bowl as fast as him. But someone needs to sit down with him and tell him that that isn’t his game (a phrase we actually heard in the game today, more on that later). His game is what we saw earlier on in the tournament. The bouncers, the Yorkers, that’s his strength, not the pace. I hope someone has that talk with him soon, or India may lose a rare fast-bowling talent.
That’s Not Your Game, Smudge!
Let’s get the negatives of the chase out of the way first, before we go on to the good stuff. The biggest concern at the moment for RR would be Steve Smith’s form. Today, he played an awkward attacking stroke to James Pattinson, who then actually shouted out ‘That’s not your game Smudge!’. Fazed by this, he edged the very next ball onto his stumps. The only 30+ score he’s had since those 2 blitz 50s at Sharjah has been that 50 against RCB. He has had one of the worst batting impacts in this IPL season out of all batsmen. RR will stick it out with him for this season, but the question is, is he worth retaining next year for 12 Crores? You could get 12 Faf Du Plessis with that money, or a 60 Devdutt Padikkals (Going by current salary of course) You’d argue that his captaincy makes up for it, but 6 different opening combinations and 7 losses doesn’t exactly suggest good captaincy. I hope that the Royals can release Smith next year, and look for a young, Indian captain. Okie dokie, on to the good stuff now!
Big Ben 10 Pulls Out A 100 From The Omnitrix
Ben Stokes wasn’t exactly having the best IPL so far. The move to make him open the innings had failed miserably. He had gotten the IPL record for most balls faced in a season without hitting a single six. There were calls to drop him from the team, or at least demote him down the order. I must admit, I was one of the naysayers who wanted to call curtains on Stokesy’s stint with RR, bring in David Miller for him, and open the innings with Jos Buttler. When I saw that Stokes was opening again today, I jokingly remarked, ‘If he doesn’t score a century today…’. Well, what do ya know.
Stokes didn’t get to face a delivery till the 3rd over because of Robin Uthappa hogging the strike and then getting out. But when he did, he made sure it counted. He scored four 4s off that over, making his intention known as I continued to bad-mouth him with my fellow naysayers. An over later, Steve Smith got out too, and it appeared as though the game had been lost already for RR. But then came the big partnership. The 2 players who were in dire needs of big knocks united as Sanju Samson walked out to meet Ben Stokes in the middle. The rest was pure magic. The pair put their feet on the gas as soon as they met, and they couldn’t seem to take them off it! Every over, every bowler, was getting dispatched for boundaries left right and centre! Let’s not forget that this is against the ‘best bowling attack of this IPL’. Every single bowler went for an economy rate of at least 9. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Rahul Chahar, Keiron Pollard and Krunal Pandya all went wicketless. It wasn’t even like they were being gifted freebies. They played genuine cricketing shots (seasoned with a bit of luck) to stitch up a partnership of 152 runs and take Rajasthan Royals home, in what was their toughest run chase this season.
It was especially satisfying to see Ben Stokes pull off this magnificent innings because of the situation with his father. Yesterday we saw two bravehearts Nitish Rana and Mandeep Singh battle it out on the cricketing field despite suffering great personal losses. And they were both rewarded with victories. Today, Stokes’ decision to come and play the IPL despite his father’s poor health has paid off and will surely bring some smiles back home.
For the Rajasthan Royals, the equation is now simple. They need to win every single game from here on. And the Kolkata Knight Riders need to lose at least one game from their next two. And if Punjab and Hyderabad collect some losses, that won’t be too bad either. So yeah, it’s definitely a long shot, but hey, funnier things have happened. In last year’s IPL, SRH actually qualified with just 12 points! So I’m still backing my Royals, and hoping for the best. If this game is anything to go by, that No.4 spot is ours all day long and twice on Sundays.