Rajasthan Royals Beat 144 for 8 (Parag 56*, Hazlewood 2-19, Hasaranga 2-23, Siraj 2-30) Royal Challengers Bangalore 115 (Sen 4-20, Ashwin 3-17, Prasidh 2-23) with 29 runs
The three big hitters of Rajasthan Royals failed to fire and only managed to score 38 from 37 balls. Their lack of hitting depth was put to the test – Trent Boult, a lifelong No. 11, came in at No. 8 with 27 balls left in the innings. They went through a stretch of 43 balls without hitting a single boundary.
It was still a small total; the lowest total defended for today in IPL 2022 was 156, by Gujarat Titans against Kolkata Knight Riders. The Royals bowlers—who had already racked up five successful defenses in six attempts this season—not only improved that effort; they were in control the whole time as the Royal Challengers Bangalore chase almost came to a halt before it had even started.
Royals Promote Ashwin Again
Sent in, Royals lost to Devdutt Padikkal in the second over of the game and walked Ashwin, who hit one drop for the second time this season.
Was he a pinch-hitter or—given the Royals’ lack of hitting depth—a pinch-blocker, sent out to make sure more valuable batters don’t get knocked out of power play?
Ashwin’s intent suggested it was the former, and there was some logic to the move. While he may not have the brute strength to regularly find the boundary later in the innings, he is a free-scoring timer off the ball in longer-format cricket, able to find the holes while the pitch is out.
He did this with four boundaries in two overs from Mohammed Siraj, before being fired while looking for a big hit – 17 out of 9, job done.
Buttler, Samson, Hetmyer
Jos Buttler was already out the next ball, causing Josh Hazlewood to be mistreated halfway through. After three hundred in his first seven games of the season, there had to be a low score at some point.
Almost as soon as Sanju Samson entered, Faf du Plessis brought in Wanindu Hasaranga. The legpinner had incessantly baffled Samson when a second-rate India team toured Sri Lanka for a whiteball series last year. Before today, Samson had been sacked by Hasaranga four times in all T20 cricket while scoring just eight runs in 15 balls.
Their game threatened to deviate from the script early on, as Samson Hasaranga batted and lofted for a four and a six in his first over, the sixth of the Royals’ innings. Then he hit a couple of sixes from Shahbaz Ahmed’s left arm spin, but just as he looked ominous, Hasaranga came back for 10th over. Samson attempted two reverse sweeps, missed both and was thrown on the second attempt.
Brought into the Royals XI as their newest batter/sixth bowler option in the mid-range, Daryl Mitchell struggled to time the ball and continued to muscle singles to deep fielders until he came out in the 15th for 16 out of 24. Royals were in a bit of a quagmire at 99 for 5, but this was a good starting point for Shimron Hetmyer, who to this day had managed to hit a strike rate in the 170s without ever being fired for less than 25. The law of averages was sure to overtake him though, and he missed a slog sweep from a Hasaranga wrong’un and was out for 3.
Parag plays on his own field
From 69 for 4 at the halfway point, the Royals added 75 more runs to their score. Of those, Parag made 55 from 28 balls, hitting three fours and four sixes. The other end and extras contributed 20 of 32, and zero boundaries between them.
The circumstances – the ball stuck and occasionally kicked up from the back end – the bowling and Royals situation combined allowed Parag to remain relatively calm through the middle of his innings, but he showed on either side of the, why Royals have put so much trust in him.
First, in the 11th over, he fearlessly attacked Shahbaz when he shot too high, with genuine clear intentions, even though he had only just reached the crease, knocking him to the ground for a six and a four.
Then, using only the tail for company, he went after Hazlewood and Harshal Patel in the final two overs, dealing most of the damage as the Royals looted 30 of those 12 balls. There were three sixes and two fours at that time, their choice being a front loft over extra cover at Hazlewood and a final short-armed ball from Harshal.
What’s worse than a first ball duck?
Dismissed on a first pitch, like Kohli’s on his last two strokes, can happen to anyone at any time – you get a good ball, or your first mistake becomes your last. You can’t read too much into it.
Kohli’s innings against the Royals, however, left more room for interpretation. He was almost out for a duck from the third ball, only because his rousing tap just wasn’t enough for square leg. Then he tapped Trent Boult for four and sent two inside edges down his stumps. Then he pushed Prasidh Krishna into his cushions, and four balls later grabbed the hook, only to push the ball into his helmet, from where it bounced into the hands of Parag who ran in from behind.
The resigned smile we’ve seen so often in recent weeks reappeared on Kohli’s face as he trudged away, not waiting for the referee to hand him out.
du Plessis each hit a boundary in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth overs, and RCB finished the power play just above a run a ball.
Sen came on the attack at this point, picking up two vital wickets with his second and third balls, off balls that were hit in the short-of-good length area. The first stopped on du Plessis and he hit the ball straight for extra cover. The second got extra bounce and Maxwell sent it straight to the fielder just brought in on slip. RCB was 37 for 3.
Royals get the job done
With Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal ready to control the middle overs, RCB had a tough job ahead of them, and it showed. Only one border came out of the first four overs after the power play, and Ashwin ended that mini-phase by bowling another right-hander with a carromball delivered from wide of the fold, Rajat Patidar his victim this time.
That brought Karthik into the fold, and a solid sweep for four from Chahal in the 13th suggested RCB wasn’t out yet. But two balls later, a mix-up with Shahbaz kept him halfway down the field as the ball was lobed into Chahal’s hands. Chahal dropped the ball but managed to drag it into the stumps and almost inadvertently break the wicket with Karthik, failing to see the fumble early enough, too slow to regain his crease.
With 72 for 6, with 73 needed from the last 44 balls, the game was almost over. RCB dragged it all the way to the final before ending in the most fitting fashion, with Parag taking his fourth catch of the innings and giving Sen his fourth wicket.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo