Steve Smith won an important toss and elected to have the first hit on the pitch. Once again, we went with an unchanged team, while RCB made a couple of changes. A different opening pair greeted our eyes yet again, as Robin Uthappa strode out with Ben Stokes. The move proved to be a fruitful one, as Robin hit the straps after a good look in the first two overs. He carted Sundar for three fours in the third over, making the most of the field placements and restrictions. He then punished Udana with a four and a majestic six off consecutive balls. Ben Stokes at the other end rotated the strike and picked up the occasional boundary.
Stokes was dismissed in the final over of the Powerplay, looking to hook Morries, but only managing an edge to de Villiers. However, the Powerplay belonged to Rajasthan Royals, as they amassed 52 runs and had their highest opening partnership of the season. Uthappa continued to pick up boundaries, until he was caught at long-on off Chahal for a 22-ball 41. Sanju Samson, who had got off to a fine start by hitting Chahal for a six off the spinner’s first delivery, fell prey on the next delivery. He looked to loft the leggie over long off, but couldn’t get enough on the ball and was dismissed.
Buttler came in at number 5 to join, batting in the Royals middle-order for the first time since 2018. He didn’t look out of place, as he played some cracking shots off the spinners. Smith, on the other hand, was taking it slow and getting his eye in. The Royals seemed to have finally powered their middle-order with the right combination. The duo milked the spinning trio of Chahal, Sundar and debutant, Ahmed in the middle overs and got the total past 100 in the 13th over.
Buttler and Smith were sizing up for a big finish by preserving wickets in hand for the death. Smith started the 16th over with a monumental hit over mid-wicket off Morris. For someone who is not known to be a power-hitter, he hit it to the top tier of the stadium. Buttler looked to clear mid-off in the same over, but he didn’t hit the ball off the middle and was caught. Smith thought continued to find runs easily with Tewatia at the other end.
Saini bowled a good 17th over, conceding just 6 off the over. It was time for Smith & Tewatia to unleash some blows and Smith started by playing a gorgeous reverse-sweep off Chahal. He then lofted Chahal down the ground for a boundary, off a no-ball. The leggie bowled one more no-ball that Smith reverse swept again to the point fence. The Royals got 19 runs off the over.
Tewatia got going with a couple of hits off Udana in the 19th over, as the total raced past 170. He hit his trademark swat over mid-wicket and finished the over smartly by getting across and helping a low full toss to the backward square leg fence. The last over was a tight one by Morris, who bowled wide and full outside off. Smith tried to clear the long boundary over cover, but was out to a very good catch by Shahbaz Ahmed. We couldn’t pick a boundary off the over and ended up with a competitive 177/6 on the board.
Jofra Archer started with a quiet over and that was followed by a good one by Gopal too. The third over saw a good battle between bat & Ball. Archer was smoked for a massive six by Finch over square leg. Archer responded with three consecutive dots, with the ball swinging both ways and beating Finch. The over ended with an effortless six over long off though.
Shreyas Gopal got the first breakthrough as he flighted one to entice a big shot from Finch. He took the bait and top edged a slog sweep to Uthappa in the mid-off region. The Royals put the brakes on the scoring right after RCB managed 47 runs in the Powerplay. Kohli & Padikkal ran very hard between the wickets as boundaries got difficult to come by.
The required run-rate climbed beyond 10 and a lot of the shots Kohli & Padikkal tried to hit weren’t off the middle of the bat. Kohli looked to cut loose in the 13th over as he launched one over the straight boundary off Tewatia. In the same over though, Padikkal lost shape as he looked for a big hit and top-edged the ball down to Stokes at long on. Tewatia’s job wasn’t done there. After getting the wicket, he was sent to deep mid-wicket in the next over. Kohli swatted a full ball from Tyagi towards Tewatia. The man with a cool head, took the catch and then had to lob it in the air before going over the ropes. He did that with minimal effort, gathered his balance and completed a very, very vital catch. RCB were reduced to 102/3 in the space of two balls.
Kartik Tyagi had to bowl to de Villiers after getting Kohli’s wicket. He bowled three dot balls to Mr. 360, bowling bouncers & yorkers. The Protea wasn’t middling everything and by the end of the 15th over, RCB needed 64 runs off 30 balls. Archer was brought on to bowl the 16th. He conceded 10 off the over that included a six from ABD. The equation came down to 54 off 24 balls, and Rajasthan Royals needed de Villiers’ wicket at the earliest.
With 2 overs up his sleeve, Unadkat was given the responsibility to bowl the 17th. He started off with 3 dot balls against Gurkeerat Singh. Once de Villiers came on strike, he smashed a six over cover off the fifth ball. On the final delivery, JD foxed ABD with a slower one. The ball landed in no man’s land in the cover region. In the context of the game, JD bowled very well, conceding just 9 runs.
Tyagi was roped in to bowl his final over, the 18th of the innings with RCB needing 45 off 18. He brought out the yorkers and low full tosses. ABD managed to slice one off an outside edge over short third man for four. Tyagi nearly had Gurkeerat caught at short third man, where JD leapt up and did well to get his hand to the ball. The 19-year old conceded just 10 runs in the over.
With RCB needing 35 off the final two overs, it was up to de Villiers to take them as close as possible. Unadkat was entrusted with the 19th, which meant Archer would bowl the 20th. The over didn’t begin well at all for Unadkat, as de Villiers leaned into his slower ones and cracked three consecutive sixes. The equation immediately came down to 17 off 9. The fourth ball was a yorker on off that was pushed to deep point for a single. A slower bouncer to Gurkeerat Singh ended up being a wide. Gurkeerat waited for the next delivery and smashed it over cover for four. This was making it easier for RCB in the final over. The last ball got them just one run. In all, the Challengers gathered 25 runs off the 19th over.
Archer, who had the huge responsibility of bowling the final over, had to defend 8 runs. RCB needed 9 with Gurkeerat Singh on strike. Gurkeerat got two runs off the first ball with a heave down to deep mid-wicket. He then picked up a single to bring de Villiers back on strike. Jofra bowled the yorker length to ABD, who drilled the ball down to long on for a couple. He sealed the game with a signature hit over deep mid-wicket off the fourth ball to seal the deal for RCB.
Once again, this wasn’t a game Rajasthan Royals should have lost by any means. If you back-track to the end of the 18th over, RCB needed 35 runs in 2 overs. Smith decided to hand the ball over to Unadkat. Perhaps, we would’ve been better off if Jofra had bowled the over. Having said that, it is very difficult to contain someone like de Villiers and he indeed took the game away from us.
The task becomes even more difficult for the Royals from here on. They have 5 matches to play and have just 6 points in the 9 they have played so far. To have any chance of qualification for the Playoffs, the Royals need to win all their remaining games. We play CSK next on 19th October next.