Rajasthan Royals 165 for 6 (Hetmyer 59*, Gowtham 2-30) beat Lucknow Super Giants 162 for 8 (de Kock 39, Stoinis 38*, Chahal 4-41) by three runs
Having lost their fourth toss in four matches, Rajasthan Royals found a way to defend successfully for the third time in a highly tactical game. Royals promoted R Ashwin to No. 6 in the 10th over only for him to declare himself out in the 19th over to allow Riyan Parag hitting time in the middle. Lucknow Super Giants were not to be left behind: they promoted K Gowtham and Jason Holder as two wickets fell in the first over to make sure their main batters were not exposed to Trent Boult‘s swing.
A measure of how difficult it is to defend is that despite Shimron Hetmyer‘s assault towards the end of the first innings – he scored 38 off the last 15 balls he faced – despite Boult’s swing at the start to get KL Rahul first ball, despite Ashwin’s four overs for 20 runs, despite Yuzvendra Chahal‘s two overs in the last five to take four wickets, it came down to IPL debutant Kuldeep Sen having to defend 14 in the last over.
Unlike the India international Prasidh Krishna, who attempted yorkers in the 19th and conceded 19 to Marcus Stoinis – incidentally held back for just this role – Sen bowled length and wide outside off to bowl three dots to make it 14 needed off two. The four and six off the final two balls didn’t matter.
Quick start for Royals
Royals are by now used to the difficult task of batting first, and accordingly their openers came out firing. Jos Buttler got stuck into Holder, and Devdutt Padikkal, replacing Yashaswi Jaiswal at the top of the order, cut Ravi Bishnoi for two boundaries in the fourth over to make it 39 for 0.
Chameera, Avesh pull Royals back
Dushamntha Chameera then returned to bowl a three-run fifth over. Buttler felt obliged to go after the sixth over, but Avesh Khan was spot on with the first ball, finding the stumps. An almighty slowdown ensued even with Sanju Samson batting with all his intent. Overs five to 15 produced only four boundaries; the 11 overs went for just 53.
Four wickets fell, too. Samson missed a slower full toss from Holder, and a frustrated Padikkal fell to a reverse-sweep off Gowtham for a run-a-ball 29. When Gowtham turned the ball against the round-the-wicket angle to bowl Rassie van der Dussen, it was apparent this was not an easy pitch. That’s when Royals sent Ashwin out.
Ashwin breaks the shackles
Ashwin has batted in the top six previously in the IPL but typically in low-scoring games to stabilise tricky chases. This was the first time he was batting in the top six when setting a target. He was 9 off 14 at the start of the 16th over when he decided his job had been done. He began to hit out now, and sent Gowtham for successive sixes, only the third time he has hit more than one in an IPL innings.
Hetmyer flourishes amid chaos
After a boundary-less 17th over by Avesh, Hetmyer found the freedom against Holder, hitting the 18th over for two sixes and a four. Two balls into the 19th, Hetmyer was left stunned at the sight of Ashwin walking off and Parag walking in. That didn’t stop Hetmyer from hitting the next two balls for sixes – an upper-cut and a slog over midwicket. Holder tried yorkers in the last over, and Hetmyer and Parag hit a six each to give Royals just the finishing kick they needed.
Boult swings, LSG go funky
Boult has bowled the first ball of an innings 79 times. Only twice has he gone round the wicket, both times to Rahul. Boult said it was James Neesham’s suggestion at breakfast. Samson was told of the plan seconds before the start of the chase. Boult bowled it full, and got it to seam in. Rahul said he didn’t see it or he would have put some bat on it. It went past the inside edge, and bowled him.
Now this can’t be a response to a first-ball wicket. LSG always wanted to go funky should they lose an early wicket because they wanted Stoinis to bat after the 15th. First came Gowtham. Boult went over the wicket to swing the ball back in and trap him dead in front. Then came Holder. With the ball moving around, the dots piled, and Holder fell trying to force Krishna’s hard lengths. Super Giants were 14 for 3 in the fourth over.
Spinners take over
If the plan was to be disruptive and aggressive with low-cost wickets, the Royals bowlers had now forced Super Giants to play old-fashioned cricket. Quinton de Kock – a poor match-up against both the spinners – and Deepak Hooda had to rebuild the innings. Just after the timeout at 52 for 3 in nine overs, Hooda tried to hit out, and Sen hit his wicket, much like Avesh did with Buttler earlier. When Chahal got rid of Ayush Badoni at the end of the 12th over, Super Giants promoted Krunal Pandya even if it meant having two left-hand batters in the middle. Samson, too, kept holding Chahal back for Stoinis.
Chahal delivers big blows
Super Giants kept holding back till the 15th over after which they needed 69 runs. With two Chahal overs in the bank, Samson also didn’t need to wait for Stoinis to arrive. In the 16th, Chahal dismissed both de Kock and Pandya. Soon, de Kock, who struggled for fluency throughout, found long-on with a vertical pull, and Pandya was defeated on the sweep.
In the 18th, Chahal got rid of Dushmantha Chameera too, but Avesh hit a six off the last ball of Chahal’s spell to keep Super Giants in the hunt. Just about.
With 34 needed off two overs, Royals predictably went to the senior bowler first to hopefully leave the youngster some cushion. Krishna, who has become a bit of a hard-lengths specialist for India, stuck with yorkers. Apart from a ramp for four, Stoinis’ other two sixes in the over came off missed yorkers. It was a little surprising that he would abandon his favoured length for yorkers, especially with a wet ball.
Sen’s lengths in the final over were in the slot, but he stayed wide of Stoinis’ reach. Stoinis tried one ramp and two hits down the ground, but couldn’t find the boundary.