The last time Rajasthan Royals had beaten Chennai Super Kings twice in the league stage was in 2008. Tonight, they required only 17.3 overs in the second innings to complete a double over them.
It turned out to be all too easy in the end. CSK were in the game for only 10 overs of the second innings from the regulation 40 overs of play. In the 11th over of the run-chase, there were only 7 runs. However, defending only 126, the time was running out for CSK which brought their chances of victory plummeting down to 27 percent according to Criclytics win predictor. From then on, Jos Buttler, who was 28 not out from 23 balls flew and took the game away from CSK’s reach.
A royal bowling performance from Rajasthan
RR would feel they did a majority of the hardwork in the first innings itself. A common consensus regarding RR’s bowling was no one was putting their hand up to support Jofra Archer. Tonight, everyone chipped in to restrict CSK to 126, the lowest first innings total this season.
Archer was on the money from the first ball itself troubling Sam Curran. He gave CSK the sucker punch in his next over dismissing the opposition’s most prolific batsman, Faf du Plessis. The right-hander chased a widish delivery to hit Archer over point but found Buttler at short extra cover. Shane Watson was sent back in the next over by Kartik Tyagi.
The departure of the top two batsmen translated into another slow start for CSK. Rest of the work was done by leg-spinners - Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia - who strangled the CSK batsmen while bowling in tandem.
The duo conceded only 32 runs in eight overs between them without allowing the opposition to find a boundary. More importantly, both of them found themselves amongst wickets. Gopal dismissed Sam Curran in the ninth over and Tewatia responded by scalping Ambati Rayudu in the very next.
CSK sent Ravindra Jadeja to number six to tackle them with a right hand-left hand batting combination with MS Dhoni but it was not enough to break the shackles. CSK managed only 46 runs during the nine overs in the middle phase.
RR kept the pressure on in the death overs as well. The fact that Jadeja was the top-scorer of the innings scoring 35 not out from 30 balls tells that there was no momentum throughout their innings.
Another top-order collapse
Prior to this game, RR had lost a wicket every 19.1 deliveries during the Powerplay. This was the worst balls-per-dismissal ratio in the season. Chasing a modest total, RR only needed to improve on that number. However, they suffered the same fate tonight losing three wickets in the Powerplay.
The openers - Robin Uthappa and Ben Stokes - scored 26 runs in the first 17 balls before Deepak Chahar pulled his length back inducing an inside edge off Stokes' bat, hitting the middle stump. Two balls later, Uthappa attempted an unnecessary ramp shot handing a catch to Dhoni behind the stumps.
Sanju Samson couldn’t recover from his humdrums either. Attempting a nudge off his hips, Samson found MS Dhoni taking a one-handed blinder behind him. From 26 for no loss, RR succumbed to 28 for three.
Smith, Buttler take them home
The situation demanded calm and in Steve Smith and Buttler, RR had a top-notch Test batsman alongside a T20 juggernaut. The two brought all their experience playing their roles to perfection.
Smith struggled throughout his innings. At the end of the 11th over mark, he was batting on 8 from 20 balls but did not give his wicket away. While there was still no pressure of the run-rate which was marginally above 6.5, Buttler decided to go for the killer blows exemplifying the characteristics of a proper T20 knock.
He nonchalantly lofted Shardul Thakur over mid-off for a maximum after collecting four off him, thus bringing the asking rate under 6 per over. In the 15th over, he carted Piyush Chawla for three boundaries which also brought up his second fifty of the season.
Only 27 boundaries were scored tonight, the least in a match this year. Buttler alone accounted for one-third of them, sending the ball across the ropes nine times. He doubled the tally of CSK’s top-scorer amassing 70 runs in the innings off only 48 balls. Smith, content playing the second fiddle, stayed unbeaten on 26 from 34 balls.
Wrong call at the toss?
Abu Dhabi is probably the only venue where the surging trend of bowling first can be followed. It has the highest percentage of successful chases in the tournament so far with the chasing side winning six out of the 13 games played. The last four games at the venue has seen the teams batting second on three occasions.
RR spinners got a good amount of grip from the surface, there was little on offer for Jadeja and Chawla. Post game, MS Dhoni admitted that the pitch became better in the second innings.
In the hindsight, playing in UAE came down to haunt them once again. After all, you don’t expect the pitches to get better for batting second in Chennai.
CSK are back at the bottom of the points table finding themselves on thin ice. RR live to die another day. They have moved up to the fifth spot boosting their chances of a Playoff qualification to 20 percent as per Criclytics.