The Ravichandran Ashwin led Kings XI Punjab team wasn’t expected to be anywhere close to the top spots in the points table. However, even as the tournament is moving into its second half, the team has not only entered the top 4, but also retained its position there. Now, it is at number 3 spot, behind Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings, claiming a spot in the semis and later in the finals.
The team cemented its reputation in the tournament by winning convincingly over Rajasthan Royals by 6 wickets. Royals made a score of 152 for a loss of 9 wickets in 20 overs while Punjab made 155 runs for the loss of 4 wickets. Though the team has had some troubles in the middle order, KL Rahul ensured that this problem is solved once and for loss.
He scored a brilliant 84 on 54 balls, not out, gifting his team a great victory. Though the chase for 152 wasn’t quite challenging, considering it is a low score as far average numbers of the tournament are considered. However, the way Rajasthan bowlers were embarrassed by the Punjab batting attack is commendable.
His batting performance was given a strong foundation by Mujeeb ur Rahman who got 3 wickets for Punjab for only 27 runs. With this defeat, the team has a strong chance to remain in the playoffs but the Royals will have to win every game to ensure that they have a faint hope for winning.
When the match started, skipper Ashwin wanted to bowl, as usual. In Indore, the Royals have played 7 matches defending their score, and won none of them. They have won only once while chasing. So, records on either side were depressing for Rahane.
Keeping up with the tradition, the Holkar Stadium pitch was a low scoring one to bat and despite the boundaries being small, getting beyond 150 was a dream come true for teams here. Yuvraj Singh from Punjab was asked to grace the bench after he made just 64 runs in five innings a Manoj Tiwary was brought in. Rajasthan chose Anureet Singh over Dhawal Kulkarni.
When Royals came out to bat, it looked like a good start. Jos Butler got 51 runs off 39 balls, marking his second half-century in the tournament. Stokes tried to do well but he went out because of a fantastic catch effort by both Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal, a rare scene for the audience. Another rare scene arrives when Gayle, a tall and heavy-built man, dived in this front for a catch and send Rahane back. Everybody, from the audience to the commentators, had a time of their life looking at replays of the catch, which was quite fantastic but uncharacteristic of the player.
The rest of the game didn’t look like a challenge for Punjab. Though some wickets fell, they managed to create 155 runs in just 18.4 overs, thanks to Rahul’s innings. Both the teams will now move to Jaipur for another match in Royals’ home ground. If they lose this time around too, their bid to the trophy will be effectively lost.