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Rajasthan Royals v Kings XI Punjab
Tue 08th May 2018
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

They say‘Revenge is sweet’ – and A ‘dish best served cold’ – well the former is certainly true and as for the latter, maybe not, because defeating Kings XI just two days after they thrashed us was perfect timing. Triumphing against them after Sunday’s bruising defeat might just have saved our tournament. It was a must win scenario for us – and our troops responded brilliantly.

This was match 40 of IPL 2018 and our 15 run victory at Fortress Jaipur raised us from the floor of the table and put us back into contention for a play off place. If we can string a few more wins together after this morale boosting effort then anything is possible, especially now some of our overseas stars are really firing – in particular Buttler, Archer and Sodhi. When Big Ben Stokes find form we will really be a handful.

The evening started with a comparative rarity, Jinks won the toss! He had no hesitation in opting to bat and it turned out he’d correctly assessed the pitch. It looked dry and offered turn as the match progressed.

Opening up again for the Royals, Jos Buttler immediately continued his good form, racing to 45 in the first six overs and striking the ball to all parts of the ground. Rajasthan were nicely placed at 63-1 at the end of the powerplay thanks to some wonderful hitting from the English keeper / batsman. Then things slowed down a little. Buttler was subdued and none of the other Royals batsmen could dominate the Kings XI bowlers.

Jos was free-flowing at the start of the innings with the fielders in. He found the boundaries with ease against pace and spin alike. Having him open the innings has proved to be a stroke of genius from Mentor Warne and the rest of the leadership team. After collecting two boundaries off Marcus Stoinis in the first over, he hit Axar Patel for a four through extra cover and executed an inside-out shot over cover for a six in the second over. Jos then collected two boundaries off Mohit Sharma – with a pull shot through midwicket and then two overs later with a deft glide through the slip cordon. Andrew Tye was hit for consecutive boundaries in the sixth – first through mid-on and then through the covers.

The England star then brought up his half-century – his third consecutive score of fifty or more – in the eighth over, requiring just 27 balls to get to the milestone. Thereafter though, with the pitch slowing down and spinners doing their thing, he struggled to force the pace. Buttler eventually perished in the seventeenth over when he tried to break the shackles but was outsmarted by Mujeeb ur Rahman and was stranded well out of the crease when the keeper removed the bails. He’d made 82, and his 58-ball knock contained nine fours and a six.

We scored at just about a run-a-ball in the middle overs, and really lost our way in the final five overs – adding just 38 runs for the loss of five wickets. Buttler’s magnificent 82 was the top-score of the innings – a T20 Century in Royals colours can’t be far away. However it is partnerships that win matches and Jos’s 53-run partnership with Sanju Samson (22 from 18 balls) for the third wicket would turn out to be the biggest of the match.

We finished our twenty overs on 158-8 – it was hard to know whether that was above or below par because it all depended on how much turn the spin bowlers would extract in the second innings…

The answer was quite a lot! The Royals pace bowlers also performed well and for Kings XI Punjab, KL Rahul ended up waging a lone battle; he continued his form from Sunday’s match where he scored an unbeaten 84 and this time did even better than that – posting his highest score in the IPL. However, even his unbeaten 95 wasn’t enough to take his team to a win.

The second highest scorer for Kings XI was Marcus Stoinis with 11 which showed how poorly their main batsmen fared. The early stumping of Gayle was a key moment. Everyone was expecting another duel with the pace of Archer – but it was the subtlety of spin that did for the West Indies Legend. Gowtham fired one down the leg-side and had Gayle stumped as he toppled over, and two balls later he castled Ravichandran Ashwin – the ball turning big and sneaking in between bat and pad and hitting leg-stump. What a player he is proving to be! His confidence must be sky high. Sodhi maintained the pressure by bowling 12 dot balls in his spell, and returned with the wicket of Akshdeep Nath, whose attempted heave landed in the hands of long-off.

Our two spinners were excellent. K Gowtham (3-0-12-2) and Ish Sodhi (4-0-14-1) strangled the visitors with disciplined bowling; it helped that they got considerable turn off the surface, but prodigious spin still requires control – and both our tweakers mastered the conditions perfectly.

The Royals leadership team are really starting to make things happen – Sodhi might be perfect to fill our fourth overseas slot and add variety to our bowling attack, Buttler opening the innings is a master stroke in every sense of the word, Archer is a fantastic threatening bowler and Gowtham is one of the finds of the tournament. If skipper Rahane can start scoring serious runs in the other opening slot, Sanju can recreate his knocks from earlier in the campaign, Ben Stokes can find bowling and batting form to match his amazing fielding and a few of our other players can start making match winning contributions then the trophy could still be ours!

Halla Bol!

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