Kings XI Punjab managed to break the jinx at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium (Image Credit: Twitter)
Chasing 184, Rajasthan Royals seemed to be in supreme control for most part of the second innings and one will have to say that 'mankading incident' totally changed the complexion of the game. Although the Samson along with Smith association kept the in the hunt, both got out in the same over and never recovered from there. The batsmen that followed succumbed to the pressure of required run rate and to be fair to them, they did play a few rash shots in the heat of the moment and eventually the host saw themselves at the sea and were fallen as Kings XI Punjab managed to secure their first win in six occassions at Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Punjab managed a 14-run victory in the end, eventually raising a few questions at the back of how the middle-order perfromed for Rajasthan Royals.
The stage was set. The clouds over the iconic Sawai Mansingh Stadium had cleared. The KXIP flag fluttered away on the top. This scenario, in many ways, was synonymous with immense pride for every Kings XI Punjabs’ fan who came to support team for their first game of the twelfth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
And so it all began, Kings XI Punjab’s best chance to win their first game Rajasthan Royals' fortress – Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur. In the first eleven editions of IPL, the two teams have locked horns against each other on 17 occasions, and Rajasthan Royals have emerged victorious in 10 of them.
On the eighteenth occasion, the toss fell in favor of the home team skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who asked the opposition to have a bat first on a wicket, which was on a slower side with batsman struggled to find the rhythm from very first goes. Interestingly, in all four games happened in this year’s IPL, the captain has chosen to have a bowl – which on this occasion looked ‘T20 mind call’ than a tactical one. The game witnessed two debutants for Kings XI Punjab with team management decided to play Sam Curran and Nicholas Pooran.
In these circumstances, Ajinkya Rahane tossed the ball to his favorite aide for the start of the innings – Dhawal Kulkarni and then the magic descended, the white ball dispelled the gloom over KL Rahul, ‘that’ white ball epitomized the spirit in Rajasthan Royals’ camp, that white ball will always be the best mate of Kulkarni as it made sure to dent KL Rahul’s start in the IPL.
Rahul, who started the edition with a delightful shot patrolling the cover region for four runs was sent back by Kulkarni just after everyone thought Rahul will score big. He was removed with a length ball outside off which had just a little movement and wasn’t a ball to be the drive, but he flowed his hands and paid the price.
His departure led Mayank Agarwal to the crease, who joined his long lost partner Chris Gayle. The duo previously batted together for Royal Challengers Bangalore. With Rahul departing early in the innings, both took their time to settle in before going for big shots and had mere 32 runs after the end of the first powerplay.
Ajinkya Rahane did make some interesting calls, introducing his four frontline bowlers in first six overs itself.
Post this, both Mayank and Gayle started off the repair work and went onto register 56-run partnership together. In this partnership, Chris Gayle being the anchor of the show. However, the duo couldn’t continue their partnership for long with Mayank getting perished by his Karnataka counterpart – Krishnappa Gowtham.
With just 60 runs on the board and one, less than 9 overs bowled, almost every cricket pundit thought Kings XI will finish for a low score. However, the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle tore Rajasthan Royal’s bowling line up and hammered 79 runs off 47 balls. His superlative innings along with Sarfaraz Khan’s effort of 46 runs helped Punjab to finish for 184 runs in their quota of 20 overs.
In reply, Rajasthan Royals was off to a rollicking start and Punjab’s bowling looked all over the places. Jos Buttler, who was the start for Rajasthan Royals last season continued his sensational run to help the team reach 50 runs in just 5.2 overs.
Buttler and Rahane made 78 runs together, eventually helping the team to be in a solid situation. Rahane got out to Ravichandran Ashwin who bowled a carom ball – his favorite weapon to send the skipper back. However, his departure didn’t bring much ecstasy to Punjab’s camp with Buttler still managing to send the ball out of the park on every other occasion.
In the thirteenth over of the Rajasthan's innings, Ashwin was coming to bowl his last ball before he saw Buttler a little outside the crease and he ran him out. Once Ashwin broke the bails off, he appealed to the on-field umpire who went straight to the third umpire to take the final call. The third umpire, after seeing the incident again gave Buttler out, which led him in the state of absolute red-faced and letting a few expletives too.
His wicket also led change in fortunes for Rajasthan Royals as they lost four wickets in quick succession, making it really tough for the team to chase 180 odd runs, which at some point was looking in range for them. In the end, the wickets kept tumbling for the pink team, eventually falling short by 'some' margin.
KXIP: 184/4 in 20 overs (Chris Gayle 79, Stokes 2/48)
RR: 170/9 in 20 overs (Buttler 69, Rahman 2/31)