Kings XI Punjab 182 for 6 (Rahul 52, Miller 40, Archer 3-15) beat Rajasthan Royals 170 for 7 (Tripathi 50, Ashwin 2-24, Arshdeep 2-43) by 12 runs
The last time these two teams played, R Ashwin pulled off a mankad dismissal against Jos Buttler and sparked a controversy that spanned continents and lasted weeks. This time he will be in the headlines again, but perhaps for less incendiary reasons.
Although he didn’t make the top score, nor did he return the best figures in the game, Ashwin was central to Kings XI’s victory, with both bat and ball. Coming to bat in the final over, he carved a four behind point off his first ball, took a single off his second, and bludgeoned two sixes to end the innings with a high-impact four-ball 17. With Kings XI having made only 12 runs for the loss of three wickets off the previous two overs, they seemed as if they were squandering a solid platform, until Ashwin’s cameo propelled them to an imposing 182 for 6.
With the ball, he was arguably even more vital to this victory. He did not concede a single boundary, gave away only 24 runs in his four overs, and took the important wicket of Sanju Samson as well as dismissing Rajasthan Royals’ top scorer – Rahul Tripathi. Although Royals had good partnerships in the first 12 overs of their innings, Kings XI’s spinners squeezed them, and ratcheted up the required run rate to an unmanageable level.
This win puts Kings XI back into the top four on the table – though they have played one more match than most other teams. Royals, meanwhile, continue to languish near the bottom of the table. They have now lost six matches to the two they have won.
M Ashwin’s supporting hand
R Ashwin claimed the better figures, but M Ashwin’s legbreaks were arguably even more impressive, on a slow track. He also conceded only 24 from his four overs, but beat the bat more often with his big turning deliveries, and bowled beautifully in tandem with his captain, to keep Samson’s 59-run partnership with Tripathi in check.
The key dismissal
Royals’ batsmen were guilty of falling into a tepid scoring period through the middle overs, but one batsman who would not have let that happen was Jos Buttler, whose hyper-aggressive instincts might have saved Royals from their eventual slow death. Buttler wasn’t around to face the Ashwins through the middle overs, however, because debutant Arshdeep Singh had already dismissed him at the start of the fifth over, thanks to an outstanding catch from wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran. Buttler attempted to crash an Arshdeep length ball through the legside, but managed only to get a big top edge to the ball. It swirled high, way towards fine leg, but Pooran tracked it down, and dived to complete the catch.
Kings XI’s solid foundation
In the chase, opener Tripathi’s 50 off 45 balls seemed a poor innings for Royals, because it put undue pressure on the remainder of the batsmen to score quickly.
In the first innings, however, KL Rahul’s even slower 52 off 47 balls, seems like a half-decent contribution, largely because the rest of the top order batted quickly around him. Chris Gayle hit 30 off 22 balls, but more importantly, Mayank Agarwal crashed 26 off 12, and David Miller., who was only slotted in because Moises Henriques turned his ankle after the toss, struck 40 off 27. By the time Rahul was out, at the start of the 18th over, Kings XI had 152 on the board, and were well-placed for a score of over 180, even if they would stutter slightly in the next two overs.
Jofra Archer’s superb bowling
England have not named their World Cup squad yet, but Archer’s outstanding turn with the ball can’t have done his chances any harm. He took the game’s best figures – by a distance – claiming 3 for 15 from his four overs. The first of his victims was Chris Gayle – caught behind off an offcutter, but Archer’s best was yet to come. In the 19th over of Kings XI’s innings, he conceded only a staggering three runs, while claiming the wickets of Pooran and Mandeep Singh. He seemed to have swung the game in Royals’ favour, until R Ashwin swung it back again.