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Chase and leave no crumbs, a Jos Buttler masterclass

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Last updated on 16 Apr 2024 | 08:16 PM
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Chase and leave no crumbs, a Jos Buttler masterclass

Out of form? Buttler shows who is the boss in the run chase against the Knights

How’s the Josh?

The giant scoreboard at the Eden Gardens read after Jos Buttler smacked a scintillating six to bring the equation down to 12 off 8 balls. Only a fortnight ago was Buttler totally out of form, and seemingly struggling to get any sort of bat on the ball.

He had only scored 72 runs in eight innings prior to that while chasing. What made it worse was that he had five ducks against his name in that passage of play before the clash against Royal Challengers Bengaluru. 

Whilst he went out and scored a gob-smacking century in Jaipur, Buttler was still candid in the post-match presentation, addressing the anxieties and stresses. Nothing was ever bigger than the game. 

However long you've played the game, you still have those anxieties and stresses. 

One of the loosely thrown-about words when Buttler is batting is ‘hope’. It is one of the words that has been loosely thrown about whenever someone dependable is at the crease. It is always that if ‘X is batting, there is always hope that they will win the game’. 

In Buttler’s case, it is not thrown out loosely, it is thrown because Buttler, for the longest time, was the game's best white-ball batter. What made him a special talent was his ability to read game situations, with at least a few shots at his disposal to adjust to any last-minute changes from the bowlers. 

You bowl a wide yorker, he has three shots ready. He can either take you down the ground, he can slice you through the third-man region or if he doesn’t do either of the two, he will ensure that a ramp is enough to take the ball to the boundary. 

That’s where it becomes impossible to bowl to someone like Buttler. 

But Kolkata Knight Riders had posted a gargantuan total on the board, courtesy of a Sunil Narine masterclass, scoring 223. Only one team in the history of IPL had chased down such a total, and it was Rajasthan Royals themselves but against Punjab Kings. 

Kolkata’s bowling unit had no loose links either. The only bowler who was struggling to make an impact - Mitchell Starc - too had picked up three wickets in their previous clash against Lucknow Super Giants. Then there were two of the best spinners that the competition had seen - Sunil Narine and Varun Chakaravarthy. 

If you ignore all these factors, you can’t quite simply look past the crowd at the Eden Garden who go bonkers every time their team does well. 

Rajasthan didn’t just have to overcome a boulder, they had to overcome the goddamn mountain. 

Buttler didn’t start well either, he was only 23 off 16, with Rajasthan needing 139 runs to win off the remaining 78 deliveries. By that point, he had already lost Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson. An over later, he also saw the back of Riyan Parag, who scored a 14-ball 34. 

At 100/4, Rajasthan were staring at emptiness. Batters walked in and walked out without really taking the game on by the scruff of its neck. 

123 runs were still needed off 66 deliveries. 

By this time around, Buttler’s batting partner was Ravichandran Ashwin. The experiment which usually has worked out well for the Royals started to cost them, with the Indian all-rounder in a real rut, at two off six balls. 

That worsened when Chakaravarthy knocked both Ashwin and Shimron Hetmyer on consecutive deliveries, leaving the Royals trembling at 121/6. 

With Rovman Powell the only recognised batter left in the shed, one can’t blame Buttler for overthinking. The Royals required 96 runs in the last six overs, but the catch was that neither was Buttler timing the ball nor was he getting enough strike.

It was perhaps the worst possible time to be Buttler. By his own admission, the Englishman was struggling for any sort of rhythm. But that didn’t deter him from ‘believing’.

“Anytime the negative thoughts come, I think the complete opposite and dare to dream. That's what kept me going. At times you feel frustrated or you are questioning yourself. I was trying to tell myself it'd be okay, keep going, you'll get your rhythm back and try to stay calm,” Buttler admitted in the post-match presentation. 

All of this is with a belief that at some point, things will change. That some point here was Chakaravarthy’s third over, and the 15th over of the innings. It was that breaking point when everything changed for the English batter. 

At the start of the over, he was on 42 off 33 balls. An over and four sparkling boundaries later, suddenly things started looking rosy for Buttler, who now was on 58 off 39 deliveries. It was the first time in the run chase that it felt like Rajasthan were accelerating, with 17 runs in the over. 

The acceleration didn’t stop there as Buttler now weighed his options to perfection, with a six against Andre Russell. 

When Rovman Powell holed out, it was either Buttler or KKR, with Rajasthan still needing 46 runs for a win. 

Up against him were two quality bowlers, Starc and Chakaravarthy and an in-form Harshit Rana. Buttler had to pump and pump Starc out of the ground. With 38 in 14 deliveries, Buttler couldn’t take it easy, attacking Starc’s bouncer behind the square-leg region for a four. 

With 28 off 12 balls, Buttler hammered Rana for 19 runs, in an over that was made for the theatre. Six, dot, four, six, two and one - the Englishman put the Royals within touching distance of a monumental win. 

Against all odds and hopes, Buttler showed the entire world a masterclass on how to chase a record total. He showed how you could anchor and still play an innings out of your skin to take your team over the line. 

Never before in the history of the competition had a team scored as many runs as the Royals scored (96) against Kolkata in the last six overs, and a lot was against the Royals.

Not only that, the 2008 IPL winners also were the only team in the competition’s history to add 100 runs after the loss of the sixth wicket. Buttler didn’t just time the run-chase, he timed it to perfection, batting all 18 deliveries in the last three overs. It is no secret that every time Buttler scores a century, his team is on the winning side. 

“That's been a big part of my play over the last few years - try to stay the course and not get in my own way. I would think so. Anytime you're not out at the end to see your team through, especially off the last ball, in a big run-chase, very satisfying,” Buttler added, after scoring his third IPL century in a run-chase, and his seventh IPL century. 

When one batter after another was walking back, it was meant for destiny’s favourite child Jos Buttler to do it all.

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