At last, Rajasthan Royals have found a resounding win in this IPL season. It took the experienced shoulders of Buttler & Smith to put in a counter-attack and take the Royals out of some early trouble in the chase. The victory has catapulted RR to number 5 in the points table with 8 points next to their name. A lot of credit has to go to the bowlers who put their hands up and kept the Chennai batsmen quiet throughout the first inning to restrict them to 125. The Royals will look to make the most of the momentum from this win for the remaining four games.
MS Dhoni, who was playing his 200th IPL game, won the toss and elected to bat on what seemed like a dry surface in Abu Dhabi. Smith mentioned that Rajasthan Royals had made just the sole change, bringing in Ankit Rajpoot for Jaydev Unadkat.
Archer troubled both Sam Curran & Faf du Plessis with raw pace early on in the Powerplay. He managed to dismiss Faf with a short and wide ball that he looked to play a huge cut shot off. The ball went to Buttler at extra cover and he made no mistake taking the catch and tumbling like a wicket-keeper. Watson came in and played a couple of delightful strokes off Tyagi, but the young bowler had his revenge soon. Watson flicked a full delivery straight into the hands of Tewatia at mid-wicket. The ball went low down to him, but he got his hands under it neatly.
A few hits by Curran & Rayudu got CSK’s score beyond 40 in the Powerplay, but losing two wickets had put them on the back foot. Bowling in tandem after the first 6, Gopal & Tewatia put the brakes on the scoring rate. Gopal foxed Curran with a flighted googly that was lofted into Buttler’s hands at long off. Tewatia got rid of the dangerous Rayudu in the 10th over, when his attempted sweep looped up off a top-edge for Samson to gather safely.
Dhoni & Jadeja were brought together, earlier than CSK would have liked or expected. The spinners continued to keep it tight and in all, picked up 23 dot balls – nearly 4 overs with no score. Jadeja broke free against Tyagi in the 14th over with three boundaries, one of which was streaky. CSK managed to crawl past 100 at the end of the 17th over. The experienced duo had no choice but to go after the bowlers in the last 3.
A slight misjudgement in running cost Dhoni his wicket in the 18th over. He ambled through the first run, and an Archer’s fumble got him thinking to run the second. Archer redeemed himself by picking the ball quickly and firing the ball straight into Samson’s gloves next to the stumps. Dhoni was found inches short and it was a huge wicket for Rajasthan Royals.
Jadeja picked up a couple of boundaries off Jofra’s final over. The Englishman finished with figures of 1/20 that included 11 dots. Stokes finished the innings well and CSK were kept to just 125/5 – the lowest first innings total in this season. 51 balls in CSK’s innings were dots; that is nearly half the innings. The Royals bowled to a plan, putting together what was easily their best bowling performance in the season so far.
The Royals opening pair, Stokes & Uthappa looked to get off to a quick start, despite chasing a paltry target. Stokes looked in the groove, as he moved around at the crease to unsettle Chahar & Hazlewood. He picked up three boundaries before chopping one off Chahar. He was utterly disappointed with the wicket and walked back dejected.
Uthappa perished trying to play a cheeky scoop over the keeper. He went after Hazlewood who followed the shuffling Uthappa. The ball hit close to the handle of the bat and went straight to Dhoni. The Royals top order went back to being in trouble at 28/2 in the fourth over.
More trouble followed for the Royals as Samson tickled one off his hips to Dhoni’s left. The veteran bent down to his left, as if in slow motion, stuck his glove out and the ball found itself sitting in the webbing between his thumb and index finger. The two keepers had got each other out, you could say.
Smith survived a close call off Hazlewood. He was struck in front, and it looked plumb. The umpire didn’t give it out and Dhoni went for the review. The snickometre showed an inside edge. Smith hadn’t seemed to have felt it either, as he had walked past the umpire. It was a huge reprieve for the Royals who ended the Powerplay on 31/3.
Dhoni decided to bowl his two new-ball bowlers, Chahar and Hazlewood right after the Powerplay, in an attempt to get rid of either Smith or Buttler, or both. Buttler didn’t keep quiet for long, as he darted one straight down the ground, over Hazlewood’s head. By the 10th over, the Royals were going almost at a run-a-ball – 59/3.
Smith & Buttler milked the CSK pacers for a while, running hard between the wickets, A gifted player that he is, Jos cut loose in the 12th over, belting Thakur for a four and a six off Shardul Thakur. The two shots took the partnership to 50 runs. The 13-run over took RR’s run-rate to 6.5 and the required run-rate was brought under 6.
Smith broke loose soon picking his spots to perfection. He shuffled across & ramped the ball to the fine leg fence. In an attempt to improve our net run-rate, Buttler attacked Chawla in the 15th over, picking up three back-to-back boundaries. He got to his second half-century of the season when he hit the first one.
Rajasthan Royals needed just 18 off the final 30 balls. Smith went after Chawla as well in the 17th by smashing one to the mid-wicket boundary and bringing up his 1000th run for Rajasthan Royals. Buttler seemed like he wanted to finish the game in the 17th over itself. He lofted Chawla for a six just beyond the long-on fielder’s reach. Buttler & Smith finished it in singles, as we won with 15 balls to spare.
The Royals middle-order played with responsibility after the early hiccups in the chase. It took two senior pros in Buttler & Smith to watch the on-song Chahar & Hazlewood off before sticking into the other CSK bowlers. The double over CSK has lifted the Royals to number 5 on the points table. These were two very crucial points that keep our dreams alive in this season. Now, we have a few more games to win and this momentum will help us stride in that direction.