The story for Rajasthan Royals was going down the same path as it did in the last four matches. The top order had misfired yet again and the middle-order seemed to be sinking as well. But, one thing we’ve learnt this season is that nothing is over as long as Rahul Tewatia is in the middle. We can add Riyan to that phrase as well. The duo put on their cool hats in the middle overs, as they ran well between the wickets. They brought out the big guns in the final five overs, when we needed 65 runs to win. An array of impressive and innovative stroke-play by both Tewatia & Riyan saw us get over the line with one ball to spare. The likes of Rashid Khan weren’t spared either in this magnificent heist. 18-year old Riyan Parag finished on 42 off 26, while the other hero, Tewatia scored 45 off 28, as Rajasthan Royals collected 2 crucial points.
The coin fell David Warner’s way and he had no hesitation to bat first. The Rajasthan Royals side had 4 changes. The most obvious one was Stokesy coming in for Tye. Parag, Unadkat & Uthappa also came in for Lomror, Aaron & Jaiswal, respectively.
Archer went first up with the ball, with his fabulous record against Warner this year in the back of everyone’s minds. He had both Warner & fellow Englishman, Bairstow hopping with raw pace. The Sunrisers realised that the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat easily and couldn’t get boundaries away at the start. They managed just 6 runs in the first 3 overs.
Kartik Tyagi got us the first breakthrough. After being smashed for six by Bairstow, he dug one in short at the opener. Bairstow went for it and a Sanju Samson special in the deep accounted for him. SRH manged to put up 26 runs in the Powerplay, the best performance by the Royals bowlers in the first six, so far in the tournament.
Warner played freely against the spinners in an attempt to give a boost to the run-rate. He got good support from Manish Pandey, who struggled a bit at the start, but then caught up. SRH got the run-rate over a touch over 6 at the end of the 10th over. The Royals read the pitch well and Jaydev Unadkat’s cutters worked well on this surface.
The Warner-Pandey partnership gathered some pace and threatened to take the innings out of Royals’ control, as the death overs neared. With the game slipping away, Smith got Archer back into the attack and the move paid dividends right away. Warner missed a heave and got castled by a straight one.
Pandey took over the role of aggressor in the last 5 and hit a few handy boundaries for SRH. He was eventually undone by an Unadkat slower-one that lobbed up towards long on, where Tewatia caught the ball with ease. Archer’s final over proved to be a tad expensive with Williamson picking up two sixes. His overall figures read well though – 1/25. Unadkat gave away 16 runs in the 20th, as the Sunrisers finished on 158/4.
The Rajasthan Royals camp threw in a surprise for everyone, sending Ben Stokes as an opener alongside Jos Buttler. He hit the sole boundary and then dragged Khaleel Ahmed onto the stumps to end a short stay. Buttler got going with a four and a six off Natarajan, but disaster struck for Smith soon. He looked to run a second one, but a slight hesitation caught him short, as a good throw came to the bowler’s end.
The Royals found themselves in a familiar situation, as Buttler inside edged a shortish delivery to Bairstow. The score read 26/3. Samson and Uthappa, who both play for Kerala, were brought together at the crease. Uthappa showed his flamboyant side to his batting, pulling Khaleel for a majestic six over fine leg. He also got a streaky boundary off the final ball of the over. At the end of the Powerplay, the Royals were on 36/3.
Citing the rising required run-rate, Samson decided to attack Abhishek Sharma who came to bowl the 7th over. He picked up two back-to-back boundaries, targeting SRH’s fifth bowler. Warner got Rashid Khan into the attack soon after. Both Uthappa & Samson played out his first over watchfully, although there were a couple of appeals from Rashid.
After a fighting 37-run stand that had a few boundaries and good running, Uthappa was trapped by Rashid Khan on 18. Riyan Parag strode out to bat and survived a shout in the same over. The umpire didn’t give it out, but Warner took the review. Replays showed that the ball would miss leg stump – a huge relief for the Rajasthan Royals camp. To the horror of all Royals fans, Khan got danger-man, Sanju Samson too. A thin edge off a drive was neatly taken by Bairstow behind the stumps. At the end of the 12th, RR were on 78/5. In walked Tewatia to join Parag at the crease, with all hopes on this pair.
Parag and Tewatia dealt in singles, taking the game as deep as they could. At the end of the 15th over, we were on 94/5 with the required rate at 13. The 16th over started off in SRH’s favour, but Riyan tilted the scales a bit by hitting a gigantic six over mid-wicket to end the over. The 17th started with a Tewatia swat that landed in the stands. Riyan followed suit by cracking back-to-back boundaries. The first one was a smart shot over cover, and he then went across to play the deftest of scoops. The Sandeep Sharma over saw went for 18 runs.
Rashid Khan came on to bowl the 18th over. The pressure was being felt on both sides now. Tewatia out-smarted Khan by pulling off a magnificent reverse sweep over backward point. The following ball was a carbon copy of the previous, as he sent one more packing to the point fence. He then brought out a classic, lofted cover drive that went screaming to the fence. Hitting one of the best spinners in T20 cricket for 3 consecutive boundaries shows a lot about Tewatia’s character. They say fortune favours the brave, and we saw one of the finest examples of that. Teeatia missed a ball that went and hit Bairstow’s pads. The ball then ricocheted back on to the stumps, and a bail lifted momentarily and went back into the groove. Tewatia was well short, but escaped. Phew!
Rajasthan Royals needed 22 runs off 12 balls and the game seemed to be in our favour. Natarajan started the over by firing the balls into the block-hole. Tewatia & Parag had to deal in singles for the first 2 balls. Tewatia decided to make some room and creamed a low full toss through mid-off and cover for a boundary. He wasn’t done! He moved across to counter-attack another low full toss and swept the ball sweetly over fine leg for six. With 10 needed off 8, Tewatia picked up a single, but through a powerful shot to the fielder. The over ended with a single that Riyan got at deep cover-point. Rajasthan Royals needed just 8 off the final over.
Riyan forced the first ball down the ground and Tewatia pushed him to come back for the second. The second ball was a mistimed shot by Riyan that went for one. Tewatia was on strike and we needed 5 off 4. It took a good 3 to 4 minutes of discussion before Khaleel could bowl the third ball of the over. Tewatia nonchalantly played a pick-up shot down to deep square leg, where a mis-field helped the southpaw come back for an easy 2. We needed 3 in 3 now.
Ahmed bowled a short ball outside off and Tewatia drilled it straight to long on, getting a single in the process. It was up to Riyan, as the Royals needed 2 off 2. One couldn’t help but think of the possibility of a Super Over at this point either. The SRH team immersed themselves into another chat. Riyan sealed it with by blasting a full-toss over cover for a biggie. Rajasthan Royals won the game by 5 wickets.
After 4 consecutive losses, it’s a relief for the Royals camp to get these 2 points in their kitty. This will be a great opportunity to get the campaign back on track. It was great to watch Riyan Parag get back into some form at an important juncture in the league. So, as it stands, we have played 7 games, won 3 and lost 4. Victories become even more important from here on and we hope to take the momentum forward when we meet Delhi on 14th October. Halla Bol!