In T20 cricket, the importance of all-rounders is always at an optimum, with sides requiring that extra batsman to score quickfire runs at the death as well as perform the role of an efficient bowler to fill in the overs. Thankfully for Kings XI Punjab, they found that all-rounder in captain Ravichandran Ashwin who bailed them out of difficult situations, with both bat and ball against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In the second game of the VIVO Indian Premier League in 2018, Kings XI Punjab travelled to the Chinnaswamy Stadium to face RCB. Virat Kohli won the toss and put the visitors to bat first; and the openers Lokesh Rahul and Mayank Agarwal duly obliged, forging a 30-run partnership before Agarwal was dismissed. Rahul was the pick of the batsman, scoring a well-crafted 47 off just 30 deliveries, but fell short of partners at the other end.
At the end of the 14th over, Kings XI looked in a spot of bother at 110/6 when Ashwin walked out to bat. The skipper immediately helped ease the nerves, scoring a boundary off just his third delivery, with a cracking square drive off Kulwant Khejroliya and went on to smash the left arm pacer for seven more runs in that over.
Wickets kept tumbling at the other end, with both Axar Patel and Andrew Tye being dismissed for single figures; but Ashwin ensured the team's strike rate never dropped. He scored 33 of the team's final 45 runs, which included three fours and a six, before being dismissed by Yuzvendra Chahal in the 19th over. Nevertheless, his batting heroics helped the team get to a fighting total of 155.
Ravichandran Ashwin's batting S/R of 157.14 during his 21-ball 33 today is the highest S/R for a captain in this IPL. #IPL2018 #RCBvKXIP— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) April 13, 2018
On the field, Punjab started brightly, dismissing both Brendon McCullum and Virat Kohli inside the powerplay overs. However, the Protean duo of Quinton de Cock and AB de Villiers forged a strong partnership for the third wicket, threatening to run away with the game.
It was at this stage that Ashwin re-introduced himself into the attack for the 12th over in a bid to break the partnership, and thunder-struck twice as Quinton de Kock and then Sarfaraz Khan were dismissed off back-to-back deliveries. From 87/2 after 11 overs, RCB fell to 88/4 after Ashwin ended his quota with the home side now needing 68 runs in the final eight.
Ravichandran Ashwin - the leg-spinner strikes. #RCBvKXIP— Umang Pabari (@UPStatsman) April 13, 2018
The Kings XI captain's disciplined and economical bowling saw him concede only 30 runs off his allotted four overs, picking up two crucial wickets along the way as well. Alongside Tye and Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ashwin's tidy spell ensured the game went down to wire, with five needed off the last Mohit Sharma over, with four wickets in hand.
Washington Sunder helped get his team over the line in the final over, but it was Ashwin's performances that reverberated the Chinnaswamy Stadium, ensuring the visitors left Bangalore with many positives ahead of a long, gruelling season.
"I am proud of the way the boys fought," Ashwin said. "We go down, we go down like this. I can't ask for anything more from the boys."