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Friday, October 22, 2021

KL Rahul’s blitzkrieg keeps Punjab in playoff race

Punjab Kings captain smashes an unbeaten 98 in 42 in a chase of 135 to underline his form going into World Cup. Rahul bosses it around to keep Punjab’s slim hopes alive after CSK falter strategically

Written by Sriram Veera |
Updated: October 8, 2021 3:12:38 pm
Rahul lapped, swatted, lofted, carved, pulled, and wrung Chennai Super Kings bowlers through the washer (IPL)

What was the pitch KL Rahul was batting on? Obviously, not the one the rest of the batsmen from both teams did. He also showed why there is no place for the in-form Shikhar Dhawan in the Indian team with his blistering stroke play.

He lapped, swatted, lofted, carved, pulled, and wrung Chennai Super Kings bowlers through the washer. Rinsed and dried them, in some style to leave Punjab with a jump in their net run rate and hoping for Kolkata and Mumbai to lose their matches.

Rahul the boss

It was the fifth time KL Rahul reached his fifty in 25 or fewer deliveries. It was also perhaps the first time that Josh Hazlewood has looked so pedestrian despite hitting his usual areas. He had bled runs against Rajasthan Royals but he had bowled far too short then. In this game, he got the length right but Rahul was gunning for him. Especially after copping a blow on the helmet that left an ugly bruise on his forehead in the second over of the chase from Hazlewood.

That was the only moment that Hazlewood won. In his next over, the fourth of the chase, Rahul crash-landed to either side of the straight boundary. And then for some variety, he murdered a short ball over midwicket boundary. Another one flew to the long-off boundary in Hazlewood’s next over.

He didn’t show any partiality to any bowler, though. Before he had stubbed out Hazlewood, he had been severe on Deepak Chahar, pulling and lofting over covers.
Dhoni looked to Shardul Thakur, who had taken two quick wickets, for some relief. No luck. A wristy whip sent a six over square-leg and a dreamy back-foot punch had the ball thudding into the cover-point boundary.

Chahar came back hoping for better luck. Instead, Rahul moved towards off stump, crouched, and lapped it over the fine-leg boundary. At the end of that ninth over, Punjab were 80 for 3.

One more six off Chahar forced Dhoni to bring on Bravo. The 12th over delivered two more sixes and the first had Bravo hunched on his knees at the ridiculousness of it all. Rahul shuffled to the off and swat-flicked an attempted yorker over backward square-leg. In the next over, he banged a four and pulled a six off Thakur to wrap up a stunning win.

Faf du Plessis had shown what was possible on the pitch in the final three overs after an otherwise laborious effort from the batting unit as a whole. Thirty-eight runs came in the final three as du Plessis drove and pulled the bowlers to disarray. It was too late for Chennai but Rahul must have seen enough to know what to do when his turn came.

There was one final lovely moment between Rahul and Hazlewood. As the match ended and Rahul was walking off, Hazlewood caught up with him for a chat. Clearly, he was asking about the pitch as Rahul gestured the nature of the skiddy bounce off the track. Hazlewood was folding his blue hand-towel and nodding in agreement. In a movie, the colour of the towel would have been the symbolic white.

Chennai falter

In the last three games, CSK have lost their way for sure. Some questionable decisions have contributed to it as well. Against Rajasthan, after piling up 189, the bowlers were shockingly short with the new ball and were murdered by Yashasvi Jaiswal and Even Lewis. The match was all but over in the power play itself, especially as Dhoni didn’t use Ravindra Jadeja much at all. In their last game, Dhoni promoted himself ahead of in-form Jadeja and laboured along towards a sub-par total. He added to the troubles by not using Bravo on a tacky pitch that was suitable for him, until the very end when Bravo nearly pulled off a minor miracle. And in this game, too, Dhoni promoted himself ahead without much success. And used Jadeja for just one over in sharp contrast to Punjab who used eight tight overs of spin. It’s time for a strategic overhaul at the Chennai camp while Punjab will twiddle their thumbs waiting for other teams to trip up.

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