Skipper Ravichandran Ashwin and KL Rahul played pivotal roles as Kings XI Punjab beat Rajasthan Royals by 12 runs. Batting first, KXIP made 182/6 largely thanks to Rahul’s 52 off 47 balls, David Miller’s 40 off 27 and Ashwin’s late cameo in which he made 17 runs off 4 balls. Later, Ashwin took the crucial wickets of Sanju Samson and Rahul Tripathi to put the pressure back on the Royals during the chase. The visitors were restricted further by Mohammed Shami, Murugan Ashwin and debutant Arshdeep Singh, who dismissed Jos Buttler early in the chase and succumbed to their sixth defeat of the season.
First Innings: Invited to bat, opener Gayle (30) smashed Jaydev Unadkat for a couple of sixes in the second over, before blasting Dhawal Kulkarni for a four and a six in the fifth over. Archer then had him caught behind by Sanju Samson in the sixth over as KXIP were 39 for one in the first powerplay overs. Playing his first IPL game this season, New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi was then introduced into the attack and Mayank Agarwal (26 off 12) clobbered him for a six in the fourth ball.
Agarwal then picked up a four and a six off Shreyas Gopal before Sodhi returned to remove him. Trying to play a slog sweep, Agarwal was caught by Archer at long-on. Left stranded on the other end, Rahul tried to steady the ship with Miller, who came into the side due to the last-minute ankle injury of Moises Henriques. The duo took singles and twos before Rahul finally scored his first boundary when he lifted a Unadkat delivery across the mid-off region.
In the 14th over, Rahul and Miller exploded after bringing up the hundred for KXIP. The duo amassed 19 runs off Sodhi’s over, his last, with Rahul smoking a massive six over deep square leg and Miller thumping one over long-off. The two batsmen piled up 20 runs in the next over with Rahul hitting an inside-out shot over cover for a six and a four off Unadkat, and Miller disposing of a full-toss over deep midwicket.
Gopal then bowled an economical over next to complete his quota of four overs. In the next over, Archer dismissed Miller on a no-ball before Rahul sent one across the mid-off area to complete his fifty in 45 balls. Rahul perished early in the 18th over off Unadkat and Archer then bowled a superb over, removing Nicholas Pooran (5) and Mandeep Singh (0). Miller too was sent packing early in the 20th over by Kulkarni. Ashwin then smashed a four and successive sixes in the last two balls to put KXIP in a strong position. Incidentally, KXIP’s margin of victory was 12 runs.
Second innings: Buttler saw out youngster Arshdeep in the first over before going after him in the second. There was no Steve Smith in the side and Ajinkya Rahane had demoted himself to the number four position which meant that it was Rahul Tripathi who opened the innings with Buttler. It turned out to be a good decision, although RR lost the match, Tripathi scored his first fifty of the season. Buttler’s assault did not last long though, with Arshdeep dismissing him largely thanks to a superb catch by wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran.
Opener Rahul Tripathi (50) and Sanju Samson (27 off 21) added 59 runs to take Rajasthan close to the 100-mark. However, after two tight overs, Ashwin produced the breakthrough with a carrom ball in the 12th over when he cleaned up Samson, who looked to play a sweep shot. Shami then returned only to concede 11 runs with Tripathi and Ajinkya Rahane sending him across the rope.
Needing 66 off last six overs, Tripathi completed his fifty in 44 balls before being caught at long off boundary by Agarwal off Ashwin. Australian Ashton Turner’s IPL debut ended with a first-ball naught, while Jofra Archer was send back by Shami as RR slumped to 133 for five in 17.1 overs. Stuart Binny scored a quickfire 11-ball 33 but it was not enough as Rahane too was dismissed in pursuit of quick runs.
Gamechanger: It was less of a moment and more of an overall performance from their skipper that did the trick for KXIP on Tuesday. R Ashwin hit two sixes off the last two balls and spoilt what was otherwise a good effort from RR in the death overs. Then, just as Tripathi and Samson were threatening to take the game away from them, Ashwin struck, first getting Samson and then Tripathi crucially in the 16th over.
Captains speak –
Ajinkya Rahane: “I think, 182 on that wicket was chaseable. We started really well. It was just a matter of two sixes. Stuart was brilliant. In a game like this, you can’t criticise too much. Our last over was crucial,” Rahane says. “in a chase like this, you cannot lose too many wickets in clumps. There was a lot of runs. Discussion was to take it deep. Tripathi was struggling in the middle is opening. I can come in the middle order and take the game with the set batsman. Just that the guys will have to learn from their mistakes. We know batting side will come hard after 15 overs. Our bowlers did really well, the two legspinners and Jofra’s four overs too”
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Very important for us to get into the 10 point category. The race is heating up. Everyone is on eight points. It’s important to catch the momentum right now. It is incredibly tough to defend here. You get some sheen on the outfield and the pitch in the night with the dew. But I thought we bowled really well, with Arshdeep executing his plans perfectly against Buttler. Mujeeb too. Arshdeep gets shape, swings the ball both ways. In Mohali, it doesn’t do much, but we are hoping for him to do more elsewhere. You’ve seen how swing helps with Chahar in CSK. It’s a process. A spinner is someone who reinvents the wheel all the time. For me, it’s about hitting various lengths at different speeds. The undercutter, the reverse carrom. I live by the sword and die by it, plenty of people say I try too much, but it’s good that I’m keeping on experimenting. Most of our changes were forced. Moises was supposed to play but he injured his ankle before the toss, Miller came in and did well. [Injury updates] We’re waiting on Mujeeb [who hurt his left shoulder while fielding]. Moises seems to be okay, not much swelling at all.”