Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Fri 11th May 2018
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

If Royals fans were to be asked who was their player of their tournament so far, some may say Sanju Samson who got off to a blistering start with the bat. Others may say it’s Krishnappa Gowtham, one of the finds of IPL 2018 with his tricky bowling and powerful batting. But following his heroics against Chennai Super Kings, and his superb batting performances in the three matches before that with scores of 67, 51 and 82, there can be no Butts, It Has To Be Buttler!

Since being given the chance to open the innings, the English star has hit the middle stages of IPL 2018 like a whirlwind – and announced his ability as a world class talent to content with in striking fashion, in every sense of the word. By almost singlehandedly taking the Royals to victory against CSK he has given his team mates a decent chance of making the play offs – and given the Royals fans the ride of a lifetime.

What a thriller the victory over Chennai was – undoubtably one of the matches of the tournament so far. The Royals have a reputation for exciting cricket and pulsating punishing batsman. In the rich Royal heritage of Pathan, Watson and Smith, the name of Buttler can now be added to the list – and fans can only wonder what he still has to offer, he is in such amazing form.

The Royals went into the match looking to build on the feel good factor of their home victory against Kings XI Punjab. Sport is all about momentum – and another victory for the Royals would give them confidence as they went into the last four crucial games of the tournament.

Indian legend MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat. On the one hand that was something as a surprise – over 80% of matches in Jaipur are won by the team chasing, however after the events of the last match, where the pitch got slower and slower and started to take prodigious spin in the second innings, then it is highly likely our skipper Jinks would have opted to take first knock given the opportunity.

Around three hours later, at the end of a feast of cricketing entertainment, Jos had powered us to a thrilling four wicket victory. He’d opened the innings with Ben Stokes – yet another starting combination as the Royals leadership group try to find that elusive chemistry at the top – and also as they look to help their talismanic Big Ben find his best form.

Sadly Stokes succumbed early yet again, at the end of a three ball period including a successful soft reviewed appeal for caught behind, a big six and then a swing in a miss leading to his stumps being shattered. Surely Ben will erupt into runs before this IPL is out?

In the end it didn’t matter. Chasing CSK’s 176-4, we needed 12 off the final over – and that was to be bowled by Dwayne Bravo to Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer. When the first ball was a dot, Royal hearts sunk. But they should have had total faith in the Butt! Jos cleverly collected a couple of twos, then followed those with a magnificent maximum over midwicket. The Royals dug out, even Mr Cool Mentor Shane Warne, were ecstatic. The timing of that shot on a slow pitch against a wily bowler was fantastic.

It meant just two were required from the last two balls and Jos realised it was all about the penultimate ball not being a dot. He ensured he got bat on ball and the ball speared out into

the covers. It reached old Royals favourite Shane Watson, who went for the run out but only succeeded in throwing the ball past the stumps for an overthrow and Jos scampered back to complete the winning run. Wow! We’d reached the finish line with one ball to spare. No-one would have predicted that for a large part of the match that preceded that moment.

To have any chance of chasing down the above par CSK total, the Royals needed to dominate the powerplay and with Jos’s gigantic hits that is exactly what they did, reaching 57-2 by the time the field restrictions were relaxed. After that however, the innings lost momentum as the sweepers started cutting off the boundaries and the outfield seemed to slow down.

We needed our set-batsman Jos to bat all the way to the end, and he did exactly that, finishing unbeaten on 95 from 60 balls. He didn’t do it all on his own through. Sanju Samson (21 from 22 balls) and Stuart Binny (22 from 17 balls) made useful contributions in the middle, while K Gowtham’s cameo at the end – 13 from 4 balls – was crucial. KG’s two spectacular sixes ensured the runs required were within Buttler’s reach in the final over. Gowtham has firmly embedded himself in the hearts of Royals fan, along with Archer and Buttler his picture will be adorning many young Royalista walls.

Earlier in the evening, Chennai Super Kings were powered to 176 by Suresh Raina’s 35-ball 52. There were also good knocks from Shane Watson, who made 39 at the top of the innings and MS Dhoni, who scored an unbeaten 33 from 23 balls. Sam Billings, on his return to the CSK XI, contributed 27 from 22 balls.

CSK got off to a rapid start, reaching 55-1 at the end of six overs, added 72 runs in the middle nine overs, and added a further 49 runs in the final five overs. The second wicket partnership of 86 runs between Suresh Raina and Shane Watson was the biggest of the innings. After they were dismissed in quick succession, Billings and Dhoni added 55 runs for the fourth wicket. The Royals bowlers can be given some credit, however, for reining the CSK momentum in with good variations and clever bowling in the middle overs of the 20.

Jofra Archer was the most successful bowler in the match; the 23-year old dismissed the two CSK openers and ended with figures of 2-42. He struck very first ball when he had Ambati Rayudu dragging the ball onto his stumps, and then had Shane Watson top-edging an attempted pull. Archer did not concede many boundaries but did bowl 5 wides and a no ball as he tried to make the CSK batsman reach for the ball rather than delivering it to them to hit. With his raw pace it might be better for him to focus on beating the batters with sheer speed – although this track was possibly a touch too slow for that tactic.

The night was all about Jos Buttler though. It helped that he got off to a good start – scoring 40 off 21 balls in the powerplay period. Jos was particularly harsh on Harbhajan, off whom he collected three fours and a six in the first six overs. The Englishman then paced his innings immaculately, scoring 28 runs off the next 23 balls, before he worked out the requirements and executed brilliantly at the death.

The bare facts say the following…

Jos Buttler – 95 not out.

Jos Buttler – Man of the Match.

Joss Buttler – highest personal score in T20

… but the full compelling story is so much richer than that. Well done Jos, thanks to you our tournament goes on – and we still have hope in our hearts!

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