The Kings XI Punjab eventually returned to winning ways against the Rajasthan Royals by registering six wickets victory at the Holkar Stadium in Indore.
The Punjab bowlers were quite brilliant and restricted Rajasthan to just 152 in their allotted 20 overs. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman was the pick of Punjab bowlers by bagging 3/27 in his allotted four overs. With the bat in hand, KL Rahul finished as the top scorer with an unbeaten 85 which included seven fours and three sixes.
It was Kings XI Punjab skipper, Ravichandran Ashwin who won the toss and put Rajasthan in. Jos Buttler kept his opening position intact after a blistering knock in the previous encounter, as D’Arcy Short was his partner. However, the southpaw got dismissed in the very first over of the match by Ashwin itself. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane also got out in quick succession, as Axar Patel brought about his downfall.
Within the 4th over, Rajasthan was reduced to 35/2 in the 5th over. There was a good partnership of 49 runs between Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler. Ben Stokes began pretty well by smashing a couple of exquisite shots. Afghan spinner, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman eventually got rid-off the dominant left-hander.
However, the credit of the wicket goes mainly to the joint effort by fielders, Manoj Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal.
The southpaw came dancing down the track in an attempt to smash a six over the long-off region. However, it went high up in the air and Mayank grabbed it near the ropes. But, as he was about to lose his balance, he threw it to Manoj Tiwary who came running down from the long on and safely pouched on to the catch.
Shreyas Gopal played a brilliant hand in the end which eventually propelled Rajasthan to a score of 152 in their allotted 20 overs. Mujeeb was the pick of the Punjab bowlers with three wickets while Andrew Tye also chipped in with a couple.
It was Chris Gayle and KL Rahul who started off the proceedings for the hosts. Rahul struck some gorgeous shots, to begin with. It was Jofra Archer who provided the maiden breakthrough in the form of Gayle’s wicket. Mayank Agarwal also fell in quick succession which reduced Punjab to 29/2. Rahul, on the other hand, continued his rich vein of form and kept smashing the Rajasthan bowlers all around the park.
The duo of Rahul and Karun Nair shared a fluent partnership before Anureet Singh castled Karun. Punjab lost Axar Patel in quick succession which reduced Punjab to 87/4. From there on it was an unbeaten partnership between Rahul and Marcus Stoinis which ensured Punjab reached the target in the 19th over.
Stoinis smashed a couple of fours and a six during his unbeaten knock of 23 off just 16 deliveries.
Here is what winning skipper Ravichandran Ashwin said at the post-match presentation,
“We didn’t play for some time, and we hadn’t got any points over the last two weeks. There was a bit of nervousness, and it’s glad to get two points. This win is good because we were tested in our batting. One of our batsmen batted deep, and that’s what we’ve been asking for. We didn’t need a tight game to chase it down. That box has been ticked. (On the bowlers setting this win up) Most of our wins have been set up by the bowlers, 12 points have been set up by the bowlers.”
“It’s pleasing. Good to know that one department is firing on all cylinders. We have options. Many of the batters are inexperienced, and as the tournament goes on, I expect them to do better. (On his captaincy mantra thus far) Didn’t come with any expectations, to be honest, didn’t come here to outdo myself or do anything special, just came here to gauge the situation and use the team in the best way possible.”
“The most important thing for a captain is to rotate the bowlers well and pick the best combination possible and to get the batting order right. (Whether being a bowling captain helps the bowlers) I think bowlers will get hit in this format, the guys who let me down today will win me games tomorrow, that’s the only perspective I came into the tournament with. Thankfully all of them are going well.”