A scintillating KL Rahul couldn't quite take Kings XI Punjab over the line as Rajasthan Royals exacted revenge on the Ravichandran Ashwin-led unit with a 15-run win at home in Jaipur on Tuesday. Only two days earlier, Punjab had beaten Rajasthan courtesy another Rahul special but with no one to assist him this time around, the opener failed to take his team to victory. Here we attempt to rate the players from either side:
Yet again Rahul stood like a rock to frustrate the Rajasthan Royals bowlers but could not avert the inevitable loss that started to stare Punjab in the face the moment they succumbed to 19/3.
However, Rahul single-handedly kept Punjab in the game with some fiery hitting, which included a hat-trick of fours off Jofra Archer. A different dimension of Rahul's batting came to the fore on Tuesday as he brought out quite a few innovative shots behind the stumps with the game done and dusted.
Buoyed by a half-century two days ago against the same opposition, Buttler smashed his third consecutive 50-plus score in the tournament with yet another spectacular knock at the top of the order. His 58-ball 82 was the cornerstone of Rajasthan's 158 with the next highest score being 22.
The Australian seamer had a poor start to this season but came into his own on a sluggish Jaipur wicket where his knuckle balls, back of a length slower deliveries and cutters made a difference. He prised out Rajasthan captain Ajinkya Rahane early and added three more wickets in the final over to finish with figures of 4/34.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
The teenage sensation from Afghanistan was right on the money yet again and spun a web around the Rajasthan batsmen on a wicket suiting his taste. His four-over spell was parsimonious and accounted for the big scalps of Sanju Samson and Buttler. The mystery spinner's reputation keeps growing with every passing game and the fact that he dismissed two of the highest scorers for Rajasthan on Tuesday gives him a perfect 10.
Walking into the Rajasthan playing eleven, Sodhi immediately showed why he should be a permanent feature in the side by sending down an exceptional spell of 1/14 in his four overs. He kept a leash on Kings XI Punjab's run rate and tied them down with his pace variations and accuracy.
While he couldn't make use of a promotion up the batting order to impress the Rajasthan Royals think tank, Gowtham seemed buoyed by the confidence placed in him and dismissed Chris Gayle off the first ball he bowled in the match. He added the wicket of Ashwin two balls later and was super-economical in his three-over spell.
The fiery seamer switched between pacy bouncers and unreadable slower balls to keep the batsmen on their toes. However, none of that mattered against Rahul, who once again took a special liking to the West Indian and walloped him for 16 in an over. Archer dismissed Karun Nair and returned respectable figures of 1/32.
The elegant Samson wasn't on fire (as has been the case the entire season) on a sticky wicket and although he played a handy partner to a rampant Buttler, he couldn't quite score enough runs to worry Kings XI Punjab.
Unadkat might have been a tad expensive but his back of a length slower balls and cutters were a handful for Rahul and Co in the death overs. A brilliant 18th over against Rahul and Marcus Stoinis all but sealed the game for Rajasthan Royals. He conceded 16 off the last over including a six and two fours but the game was well and truly over by then.
Stoinis opened the bowling for Kings XI Punjab and beat Rahane's bat off the first ball he bowled. However, the remainder of the day did not go as well for him either with ball or bat. He ended up with a fidgety 16-ball 11 that ultimately affected Kings XI Punjab's chances.
The England all-rounder just can't seem to catch a break. His horrendous season continued as he made a 11-ball 14 before departing to Tye in the final over of the match. His two-over spell, though, went for just 13 and brought about the wicket of Manoj Tiwary. But given his reputation and price tag, Stokes is expected to make a bigger impact than that.
The all-rounder spent little time at the crease and was used sparingly with the ball. Though he seems to be a bits and pieces cricketer, there is something in him which could be exploited by Rajasthan Royals.
The Kings XI Punjab seamer, picked for his death bowling skills, was bizarrely used for two overs within the powerplay when he went for 25 runs. He returned to bowl a superb 19th over, conceding just five runs and showing that, if used right, he could be more than handy.
Wickets continue to elude him in the IPL this season and although his captaincy had given him some good reviews, it all came apart on Tuesday when he made quite a few questionable decisions, including promoting himself to No 3 in the batting order.
The all-rounder had an off day after his excellent show at Indore two days back. He opened the bowling and conceded at eight-an-over, going wicketless and not completing his quota of overs. He evoked more confidence walking in to bat and slogging over mid-on confidently but ended up running himself out.
The recalled youngster had a remarkable Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament earlier this year but couldn't quite replicate his exploits in his first Indian Premier League (IPL) match of the season. His nine runs came off 13 balls and put Rahul under a lot of pressure to do the bulk of the work.
The experienced Tiwary, like Nath, failed to rotate strike consistently and ended up adding to Rahul's workload. He was probably used a tad too low in the batting order but having come in to bat by the ninth over, Tiwary should have played the anchor role for Punjab.
Nair was recalled to the Test team earlier in the day but failed to get going at No 4 in Kings XI Punjab's batting order. Having lost Gayle and Ashwin early, the visitors needed a batsman to consolidate with Rahul and it appeared as if Nair would be the ideal choice. However, he was undone by Archer's pace and mistimed a pull to mid-wicket.
The medium pacer was used almost as a part-timer and bowled just a single over. He could very well make way for a batsman in the next game unless Rajasthan decide to do away with the slew of all-round options they have.
With his team needing a quick-fire knock from the lower order, Binny, brought back into the starting eleven, smashed a maximum to get going but was run out in the death overs. The all-rounder seemed to be too lazy to dive and paid a hefty price which also saw him flunk.
Having started the season with a bang, Gayle seems to have reached an impasse as he recorded his second-consecutive single-digit score. Having failed to get going against Rajasthan the other night, Gayle was undone by a clever piece of bowling from Gowtham and some impressive glovework from Buttler.
Rahane was on Tuesday given India's Test captaincy for the one-off Test against Afghanistan. However, it could not lead to a boost in his IPL performances and the Rajasthan Royals' skipper, opening in place of D'Arcy Short, stepped out to Tye and spooned a leading edge to cover.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor