The 2019 IPL season saw the Rajasthan Royals launch and don their new ‘Pink’ kit to mark the commencement of a new era in the history of the team. Having finished 4th in the 2018 season, the team looked set to recreate their title winning heroics of 2008 and get their hands on the coveted IPL trophy yet again. There was no shortage of firepower in the batting department as it boasted the likes of Rahane, Smith, Samson, Stokes and Buttler. Rahane led the line as skipper for the first half of the season.

In what was an undesirable start to the campaign, narrow defeats and unlucky moments resulted in a 7th place finish for the Royals. The season did see some breakthrough performances and masterclasses from members across the squad. Here is a recap of how the season panned out: -

Buttler being one of the most gifted batsmen around, can play every stroke in the book, and he started off doing just that against Kings XI Punjab in the opening fixture of the season. His eye-catching scoop shots, drives and pull shots had the Kings XI bowlers concerned at that point. However, the controversial ‘Mankad’ incident resulted in Buttler being dismissed for 69(43). Despite losing the wicket of their talisman, the Rajasthan Royals failed to convert their strong position in the game into a victory. Kings XI Punjab won the game by 14 runs

Samson made all the headlines in the next game against Sunrisers Hyderabad as he hit a scintillating 102(55) to become the first player to score a century in the IPL season. Shahbaz Nadeem was the first one to end up at the receiving end of Samson, as his delivery was lofted for a six in the 7th over. The likes of Kaul and Rashid Khan were not spared either, as they too were hit for numerous boundaries. However, what really stood out was Sanju Samson’s devastating batting in the 18th over against Bhuvneshwar Kumar; a world class bowler in his own right. He hit him for a maximum over long-off and followed it up by steering a near Yorker delivery for a boundary. The next few deliveries were convincingly dispatched by Samson for boundaries as well. A total of 24 runs were scored in that over, as Samson made Bhuvneshwar look ordinary. The Royals ended up with a score of 198/2. It is not too often that we witness such a breathtaking knock from a player, and then see his side lose the match. Such was the case, as Sunrisers Hyderabad batted with a clear intent to win right from the start. Bairstow and Warner played a huge part in Sunrisers Hyderabad completing the chase and winning by 5 wickets.

In the next game against the Chennai Super Kings, a Dhoni special took Chennai to a total of 175/5 after a top order meltdown. The game was tense and went all the way to the final over. The Rajasthan Royals needed 13 off the final over to win the match. Stokes looked primed at 46(25) to win the match for the Royals, but he was dismissed off the first ball in the final over of the game by Bravo. Gopal lost his wicket next and Chennai went onto narrowly win the game by 8 runs.

Victory came in the fourth game for the Royals as they defeated strugglers; Royal Challengers Bangalore by 7 wickets! Shreyas Gopal was mesmerizing, as he took a hattrick of googlies to dismiss AB de Villiers, Kohli and Hetmeyer to limit Bangalore to a total of 158/4. In what was a successful chase, Buttler hit 59(43) and ensured the Royals claimed their first two points of the season.

The Kolkata Knight Riders were up next at home. It was Smith and Buttler who made important contributions in this game, scoring 73(59) & 37(44) respectively. However, this was not enough in the overall scheme of events, as the Royals ended up with a total of just 139/3 runs. The Kolkata Knight Riders managed to chase this down in the 14th over and win the match by 8 wickets.

Next up was the home fixture against the Chennai Super Kings. The Rajasthan Royal batsmen never really got going in this game as a total of 151-7 was scored. Dhoni was at it again as he was the biggest run contributor in this game. There were some truly outstanding moments in the field as Ben Stokes took a blinder of a catch at point to send Jadhav walking. In what was a thrilling contest, it was a last-ball six from Santner that decided the fate of the game. Chennai Super Kings narrowly won the match by 4 wickets without a single ball to spare.

Having played six games at that point, the Royals had lost 5 and had just 1 victory to their name.

Mid-season: Improved performances and play-off aspirations

Taking it on himself to turn things around, Buttler exuded class as he hit 89 (43) at the Wankhede to help his side reach a total of 188/6. Buttler was in some mood and eager to carry the Royals to victory. He was ruthless and went after the bowling. Alzaari Joseph was at the forefront of the Buttler onslaught as he was smashed for 28 runs in the 13th over. The Mumbai Indians would not back down, as they chased the target with a great degree of determination. Jofra had a telling impact on this game as he took the wickets of both Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock. He ended with figures of 3/39. Shreyas Gopal kept things extremely tight despite not claiming a wicket. In a game that went all the way down to the wire, the Rajasthan Royals held on to claim their second victory in IPL 2019 as the Mumbai Indians were defeated by 4 wickets (with 3 balls to spare).

The Rajasthan Royals were unable to claim back to back victories following the victory at the Wankhede. They faced Kings XI Punjab again who managed to close them down at Mohali to win by 12 runs, having scored 182/6. Stuart Binny put in a memorable cameo performance as he hit 33 runs off 11 ball towards the end of the game but the Royals fell short of the target in the end.

With more than half the season gone, Steve Smith assumed the role of captain of the team.

It was the Mumbai Indians who visited Jaipur next for the repeat fixture in game number 9. The Rajasthan Royal bowlers were efficient as they limited the Mumbai Indians to a score of 161/5. Gopal ended with figures of (2/21) in this game. Steve Smith played an important knock as captain and led the chase scoring 59(48). This game saw 17-year old; Riyan Parag announce himself in the IPL as he contributed 43(29) but missed out on getting his 50. The Royals eventually emerged as victors, winning the match by 5 wickets! Also, the Royals had now completed a memorable double over their Mumbai based counterparts.

The next test for the Rajasthan Royals came in the form of the Delhi Capitals in game number 10 of the season. The SMS was treated to a wonderful century (105/63) from Rahane in this game. Rahane was back in his element, and the Jaipur faithful were overjoyed to see their batting lynchpin unleashing on the opposition. Rabada, who opened the attack for the Delhi Capitals was hit for plenty in the last over of the powerplay as Rahane used his pace to perfection. The spin duo of Axar Patel and Amit Mishra were never given a moment to settle in as Rahane went after them, dispatching their deliveries for boundaries and maximums. Steve Smith also contributed an important 50. The Delhi trio of Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan responded by playing aggressively right from the start to successfully chase down the total of 191.

Running into the business end of the season, Rajasthan Royals defeated the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens in game number 11 by 3 wickets as they chased down the target of 176. Riyan Parag scored 47 and missed out on scoring 50 again. He struck the stumps with his own bat to result in a hit wicket dismissal. Varun Aaron reminded the world of his talent as he ended with figures of 2/20 in this game and played a key role in the victory. Debutant, Oshane Thomas also got his prized wicket to get off the mark in the IPL!

Game number 12 brought with it the visit of Sunrisers Hyderabad to Jaipur who also aspired of making the playoffs. The Rajasthan Royals fielded a new lineup given the departure of the English trio for the World Cup. Samson and Livingstone scored 48(32) and 44(26) respectively to chase down the target of 161 set by Sunrisers Hyderabad. Jaydev Unadkat put in a stellar match defining performance as he ended with figures of (2/26). The Royals won the game by 7 wickets.

Rain played total spoilsport at Bangalore in the second last game of the season, as the game ended with no result. In the limited overs that were played, Shreyas Gopal claimed a stunning hat-trick yet again dismissing Kohli, De Villiers and Stoinis. The atmosphere was electric, and Gopal enjoyed every moment of it in his hometown of Bangalore.

This meant that the Royals had a chance to qualify for the playoffs provided certain results ended in their favor.

The final game of the season saw the Rajasthan Royals take on the Delhi Capitals. Several big names had departed including Steve Smith. The batsmen never really got going and the Rajasthan Royals only managed to put up a total of 115/9. The Delhi Capitals eventually came out as winners and emerged victorious. However, in a result that did not go the way of the Royals, Riyan Parag made history as he became the youngest player to score a 50 in the IPL.

The Rajasthan Royals had a season of mixed fortunes. Such is the nature of the T20 game, where the margins between winning and losing are very fine. The Royals had their moments but will be looking to really grab games by the scruff of the neck next season. A host of players in the team demonstrated their capabilities. Shreyas Gopal was undoubtedly the player of the season for his consistent and electrifying displays through the season. Varun Aaron came back into the fray with a new set of tricks. Oshane Thomas, the West Indian seamer, proved he can step up and deliver when required. Jaydev Unadkat also hit form towards the end of the season. The likes of Buttler, Smith, Rahane, Samson, Stokes, as expected had great moments in the season. Finally, who could possibly forget the discovery of Riyan Parag, the 17-year-old wonder kid. In all, the 2019 season came with important learnings which will surely help the Royals work their way back to the top. Halla Bol!

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