The Kings XI Punjab were on a mad run. They had beaten 5 teams on the trot. Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals – the best of the best couldn’t hold their ground against them. They were looking unstoppable. They looked set to get that No.4 spot on the table, and break the hearts of all the other teams in contention. And then emerged an unlikely hero.
From the fog of war, the Royals rose up. Nobody gave them a chance. They carried the hopes, and expectations, however feeble, of not just their fans, but also the fans of every team not known as the Kings XI Punjab. And they didn’t let them down.
The Rajasthan Royals beat the Kings XI Punjab by 7 wickets.
A Kiwi, A Barbadian and Two Englishmen
Before this game, the Rajasthan Royals social a rapid fire between Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. It came at the right time, since these two had championed RR’s win against Mumbai. Well, who knew that they would be the exact heroes of the next game too? (I did, they were my fantasy captain and vice-captain but okay I’ll lie for dramatic purposes). There was a question in that rapid fire to Jofra – Would you rather take a wicket with a bouncer or a Yorker? He said that he’d rather get it with a Yorker because getting a wicket with a bouncer is ‘just too easy’ (paraphrasing a bit, I can show you my poet’s license). Well, he proved that today when he banged one short to Mandeep Singh and got him going on the very first ball. Interestingly enough, it was Ben Stokes who took the catch.
A Player We Don’t Deserve
Jofra Archer has of course been simply exceptional this season. He has officially been the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, and by quite the margin. He has also had the highest bowling impact in the tournament, again by a staggering margin. He lived up to all that today, getting a wicket in the very first over (as per), and then bowling the tightest of last overs to shift the momentum towards the men in pink. He also got Chris Gayle out on 99. I suspect there’s a bit of an ego battle between the two, since Gayle was a senior member of the West Indies side that refused to pick Archer. Anyway, it was clear who won the battle today when Gayle threw his bat in anger after his stump went for an evening stroll following an Archer yorker.
My Apology Letter To Ben Stokes
Dear Ben Stokes,
I doubted you. A lot. When you were promoted to the top of the order, I called for the arrest of Andrew McDonald and Steve Smith for suspected drug use. But you have proved me wrong. That century against MI wasn’t a one-off. You have been the best player on the pitch for two games straight. A swashbuckling half-century and two crucial wickets is enough for me to write this letter of apology. The 264 points to my fantasy team didn’t hurt either. You deserve (almost) every penny of that 12.5 crores. In your face Marlon Samuels.
Bowling partnerships are as important as batting partnerships. We had Jofra Archer doing wonders from one end in the powerplay, but runs were flowing as fast as a river in it’s middle course (Geography test tomorrow, don’t mind me) from the other end. But RR may have potentially found the dam they needed in Varun Aaron. I know, I know he leaked quite some runs too. But you have to give him a free pass, it was against a ruthlessly in-form Chris Gayle, for heaven’s sake.
Plus, he did almost get Gayle out even before he had hit a single boundary. Riyan Parag and Robin Uthappa couldn’t co-operate an the all-important catch was dropped. Talking about catches being dropped, The King, His Highness Rahul Tewatia dropped one too. It came off his own bowling, and to be fair, it wasn’t really his catch. But let’s not focus on the negatives, the fact that he created that wicket-taking opportunity is enough in itself. That combined with his economy of around 7, and you’ve got a Typical Terrific Tewatia performance.
Rajasthan started off inconceivably well. Mostly in part due to Ben Stokes’ absolute banger of a performance. He looked to attack from the word go, and had reached his 50 in no time. This was just the second 50 in this whole tournament, to come entirely before the powerplay even ended. His partner Robin Uthappa was just at 9 runs when he got to 50, that should give you an idea of the pace of his innings. Unfortunately, 50 was all he got as he found himself on the wrong side of a soft dismissal off a Chris Jordan delivery. The start he gave to the Royals was unmatched to any other Royals game not at Sharjah. He really is a big-match player.
The Royals of the past would have blundered this start, and suffered a collapse, and lost, and Steve Smith would’ve come out to the presentation and said ‘Yeah, the wicket played tough’ while making some weird hand gestures. But not the new-age Royals. Sanju Samson came in at 3 and played a proper innings. Robin Uthappa gave him some good company at the other end before getting out uncharacteristically to a sweep shot caught in the deep right after he had hit a large six. WE now had the Chachu partnership on crease.
The Chachu Partnership
By now, the equation was pretty simple. The batsmen just had to go at a run-a-ball and the match was in RR’s kitty. But these 2 showed some great intent, and also some passion for the team. Instead of taking the easy way out of just looking for singles, they tried to go for the big shots and get RR’s Net Run Rate up there. Sanju Samson is known for the big hits, but Steve Smith playing those shots was truly special. Their partnership was ended by a misfortunate run-out but the damage had been done by then. Sure enough, a classic Jos Buttler cameo ensured that they pack up the two points for the day.
Overall, this was an outstanding effort by the Royals today. The bowlers did well, and showed character bowling 38 dot balls in spite of the two most in-form batsmen being at the crease. The batting was simply out of the world, and I would go as far as calling it the best batting performance by the Royals in this campaign. The playoffs are beckoning now. A win in the next game will put us astoundingly close to that playoff berth. As long as CSK can become the CSK of old, and SRH can become the Deccan Chargers of 2012, we’re on that camel ride to Abu Dhabi for the Eliminator. #HallaBol