Some exceptional hitting in the fag end of the innings from KL Rahul couldn't stop Rajasthan Royals (RR) from surging to a revenge-seeking win at Jaipur on a slowish kind of track. Pumped up by yet another Jos Buttler special, Rajasthan racked up 158, which was thought to be a par-score on a tricky wicket.
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) lost three wickets in quick succession in the run chase but held on courtesy a stellar knock from Rahul, who remained unbeaten on 95. Eventually, Rajasthan triumphed by 15 runs in the 40th match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at Jaipur on Tuesday. Take a look at the best moments from the encounter.
The savage deception
Rahul and Chris Gayle have been the most destructive opening pair in this season of the IPL. Gayle, against whom off-spinners are always a fancied option, had been a game-changer at the top for Punjab this season and another vibrant start from the West Indian opener would have all but erased Rajasthan's hopes of staying alive in the game.
However, they handed the responsibility to contain Gayle to Krishnappa Gowtham, the off-spinner. Gayle's primary weakness against this brand of bowlers has been the flighted ball turning away from outside off-stump. A slip was perfectly in place and the trap seemed to be laid out for Gayle.
However, much to his surprise, Gowtham decided to trick him with a fullish leg-side delivery. Gayle, taking a big stride forward to negotiate the outside off-stump off-break he was expecting, lost balance and fell out of the crease. Buttler, along with whom Gowtham seemed to have plotted this devious plan, completed the stumping and the first nail was hammered in Kings XI Punjab's coffin.
An unwarranted batting promotion
They say “don't fix what's not broken”. But Ravichandran Ashwin, quirky and instinctive as he is, has put together some surprising strategies this season, deviating miles away from the norm but finding success nevertheless. However, the off-spinner seemed to have taken his decision to be “unguessable” to a different level and it's starting to fall apart for Punjab.
A few days earlier, he used Yuvraj Singh and Axar Patel in the top order to counter left-arm spinners. In yet another bizarre move on Tuesday, he promoted himself to No 3 in the batting line-up. With Gayle dismissed off the first ball of the second over, Ashwin walked in, possibly to up the ante and put a bit of pressure on Rajasthan.
However, much to his dismay, Gowtham managed to sneak one in through his bat and pad off the second ball he faced and Ashwin had to depart without troubling the bowlers. The messed up plan perhaps affected Kings XI Punjab's chances in the game for the likes of Karun Nair, Manoj Tiwary and Marcus Stoinis came in with severe scoreboard pressure hovering over them.
The ball-in-the-pocket celebration
When Stoinis hammered Jaydev Unadkat down to deep cover, he half expected the ball to sail in to the stands. But Gowtham, enjoying a dream day on the field, intervened the ball’s journey to the fence with a timely leap and plucked the ball out of thin air.
The off-spinning all-rounder immediately put the ball into his pocket, folded his arms spotting a smug smile and celebrated in a unique manner. He had earlier celebrated the dismissal of Ashwin with a few flying kisses blown in the air but the ball-in-the-pocket celebration attracted more attention, with even Virender Sehwag spotted having a smile in the dug-out.
Did anyone checked his pockets for sandpaper, maybe?
Rahul showcases his full range
With the game all but done and dusted, KL Rahul, the lone pillar of Kings XI's batting line-up, went on a hitting spree, targetting the area behind the stumps. He shuffled across to the searing pace of Jofra Archer and sent his full length ball to the fine-leg fence with a well timed lap.
While the West Indian continued to bowl fuller, Rahul once again went down on his knees and ramped the length ball over short fine-leg for another boundary to end the penultimate over with three fours.
When Unadkat bowled fuller in the final over, Rahul dumped him through covers with an elegant cover drive but switched back to his 360° game off the final two balls. With the left-arm seamer hitting a back of a length channel, Rahul went reverse and slammed him over short third man for four. Off the final ball, with the game already over, the Kings XI opener once again reverse hacked him through the same region to complete a stupendous innings.