Ravichandran Ashwin mankading Jos Buttler at a critical stage in the run-chase proved to be the game-changer as Rajasthan Royals succumbed to a 14-run loss at Jaipur against Kings XI Punjab on Monday. Was Ashwin's actions within the spirit of the game? Did Jos Buttler deliberately look to gain an unfair advantage?
Here's more on the controversy and the other big moments from the match:
Kulkarni nabs the dangerous Rahul for the fourth time
If there was one man from Rajasthan Royals who could stop KL Rahul's belligerence in the powerplay overs, it was Dhawal Kulkarni. The swing bowler had dismissed Rahul thrice in the 18 balls he had bowled at him prior to this season. Rahul has always looked to dominate Kulkarni in the past as evident from the frequency at which he hits boundaries off the Rajasthan seamer (three sixes and two fours in 18 balls).
On Monday, the tussle was back at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Rahul creamed Kulkarni through the covers off the second ball of the first over but his joy was short-lived as the swing bowler extracted movement and forced an outside edge to the keeper two balls later. It was a massive wicket for Rajasthan given that Rahul had been unstoppable in the first six overs last season.
When Tripathi arrested the Gayle storm
Till his first maximum in the match, Gayle had scored 21 from as many balls. A six off Krishnappa Gowtham confirmed that the southpaw was in his zone and soon showered a barrage of boundaries to announce that the storm was ready to hit Jaipur city.
In the 16th over, Gayle bludgeoned Ben Stokes for a six first up before hitting a couple more boundaries. The West Indian was on 79 off 47 balls and Rajasthan knew they had to find a way to dismiss him to claw back into the match. Off the fifth ball in the over, Gayle smoked a pull to the deep mid-wicket boundary and it appeared to be headed for a six until Rahul Tripathi timed his jump near the ropes to perfection and pulled off a screamer to bring an end to the Gayle storm.
Sarfaraz Khan pulls out the Dilscoop yet again
Sarfaraz Khan had caught the attention of the cricketing fraternity with a slew of unorthodox shots in his debut season for Royal Challengers Bangalore. While his popularity went spiralling down in the next few seasons, given a role at no 4 in Kings XI Punjab's season opener, Sarfaraz played a fine cameo and unleashed his special Dilscoop to leave Ben Stokes dumbfounded in the final over.
Anticipating Stokes’ length, Sarfaraz bent low and ramped the ball over his head through third man for four in the second ball of the final over. The youngster lowered his centre of gravity, kept his eyes on the ball and found the elevation to clear the short third man fielder quite comfortably. Sarfaraz's pyrotechnics brought out a wry smile from Ben Stokes who was clearly at wits’ end against the innovative middle-order batsman.
The Mankading and Ashwin's impromptu pause
Controversy gripped Jaipur as the visiting skipper Mankaded the rampant Jos Buttler at the non-striker's end in the 13th over of the run-chase. On 69 off 43 balls, Buttler was threatening to take the game away from Kings XI when Ashwin cut short the Rajasthan opener's stay. Replays showed that Buttler had indeed walked out of his crease but questions lingered on whether it fell within the 'spirit of the game’.
On close inspection of the Mankading dismissal, it was seen that Buttler had dragged his bat out after Ashwin paused in his delivery stride which actually makes the off-spinner’s actions questionable.
As per the MCC rule book, Mankading is indeed legal but a detailed look at the law perhaps justifies why Buttler was clearly outraged.
41.16 Non-striker leaving his/her ground early
If the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one in the over.
If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.
That Buttler appears to be within the crease “when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball” makes Ashwin's action a dodgy one. Although, the controversy is set to rage on, Buttler's dismissal triggered a collapse that saw Rajasthan fall short by 14 runs eventually.
Steven Smith's return to IPL and KL Rahul's blinder
Amidst the Mankading controversy, Steven Smith made a rather unremarkable comeback to the IPL after missing the whole of last season. The Australian was key to Rajasthan's run-chase post Buttler's dismissal and ambled along to 20 at decent pace before a KL Rahul screamer cut short his stint at the crease. Sam Curran delivered a full length ball seaming away wide outside Smith's off-stump and the Australian batsman looked to carve the ball over covers. He found good elevation but Rahul covered the ground well and dived full stretch to pouch a sensational catch in the deep. The dismissal derailed Rajasthan's run-chase completely and they lost their next six wickets for 16 runs.