Photo: SportzPics

It was a run fest at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Friday’s game of the 2020 Dream11 Indian Premier League, which ultimately went the way of the Rajasthan Royals who chased down a target of 186 to do the double over Kings XI Punjab. The loss ends a five match winning streak for KXIP, who would now need a win in their final league game against Chennai Super Kings to make it to the playoffs. 

It was Rajasthan Royals who started the game on the front foot, as a pacey bouncer from Jofra Archer got them a wicket in the very first over, with Mandeep Singh walking back without scoring. New man Chris Gayle however counter-attacked with a quick four and a six off Varun Aaron’s bowling  to put the pressure back on the fielding side. 

The Universe Boss also latched onto youngster Kartik Tyagi, getting two fours and a six of his first over. KL Rahul too joined in the act, getting a big six over mid-wicket in the powerplay over to bump the score to 53/1 despite that slow start. 

The run rate didn’t dip even after the field restrictions were lifted, as KXIP added 18 runs in the next two overs. Gayle continued to be the chief aggressor in the partnership, as he got to his fifty in the 11th over with a six over long-on. A couple of overs later, the duo of Rahul and Gayle got to a 100 run partnership, as KXIP put themselves in pole position for a strong finish. 

Steve Smith reintroduced Archer to break the partnership, but the move didn’t have the desired effects as the KXIP batters got two fours in that over. Ben Stokes however managed to break the partnership in the next over, as a slower one compelled Rahul to mistime his shot to the fielder in the deep, leaving his side at 123/2 after 15. 

New man Nicholas Pooran started off with a bottom hand flick that travelled over the ropes, and followed that up with a six over covers. The 25-year-old got a third six soon enough, this time hitting it back over the bowler’s head. Gayle found his groove again as he hammered Stokes for a four and a six in his last over. The English all-rounder though accounted for the wicket of Pooran off his final ball of his spell. 

Despite losing his partner, Gayle wasn’t to be stopped as he swatted one over mid-wicket off Tyagi’s bowling to bring up his 1000th six in T20 cricket. The Universe Boss got another six in the final over, but he was knocked over by Jofra Archer the very next ball, dismissed for 99. Nevertheless, Gayle’s powerful knock ensured that KXIP ended their score at 185/4, giving their bowlers plenty to defend. 

Turning Point

Ben Stokes took apart Murugan Ashwin in his first over, hitting him for 16 runs. And that was what laid the foundation for the Rajasthan batters to get big runs against KXIP’s spinners who have been in splendid form.

In reply, Rajasthan Royals came out all guns blazing, as Stokes got a boundary apiece off Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami. Robin Uthappa too got a six early on in the innings, as RR got to 21 without loss after just two overs. KL Rahul got spin early into the attack to curb the flow of runs, but Ben Stokes wasn’t to be slowed down, as he pummeled Murugan Ashwin’s first over for 16 runs. 

Stokes welcomed his countryman Chris Jordan with a six over mid-off, to get to his fifty of just 24 balls. It was the KXIP bowler however who had the last laugh, as he had the number of Stokes a couple of balls later. Nevertheless, it was advantage Rajasthan after the powerplay as they had raced away to a score of 66/1. 

The wicket slowed down the scoring rate, as KXIP’s leggies conceded just 13 runs in the two overs after the powerplay. New man Sanju Samson however turned the tide yet again as he got a four and a six of the ninth over to get the run rate above 10 yet again. 

Rajasthan’s batsmen got a six apiece of the spinners in the next two overs, to stay in sync with the asking rate. Murugan Ashwin though continued to be brave, as he tossed one up inviting Robin Uthappa and the 34-year-old fell for that trap, hitting it into the hands of the fielder in the deep. 

Despite the wicket, Rajasthan remained in pole position as Sanju Samson got a six and a four off Murugan’s last over to get the asking rate below eight for the first time in their chase. A moment of brilliance in the field however sent Samson packing after scoring a brisk 48, thanks to a direct hit from substitute fielder Jagadeesha Suchith. 

Samson’s wicket got KXIP back in the game, as the chasing team now needed 40 to win off the last five with two new batsmen in Steve Smith and Jos Buttler in the middle. Buttler however showed his class, as he got a big six over long-on off Jordan’s bowling to put his side in control yet again. 

That was followed up by two consecutive boundaries by Smith off Shami’s bowling, to get the equation to a run a ball. Buttler too chipped in with a four on the final ball of that over, putting RR within touching distance of that win. The English batsman added some further gloss to his innings, as he hit Jordan for a straight six to help RR get a seven-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab.

KXIP play their final group stage game against Chennai Super Kings on Sunday, November 1.