Till Sunday’s clash between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansigh Stadium, Jaipur, S. Sreesanth was in the news for the wrong reason – his amateurish comments on slapgate. However, on Sunday, he made a big difference in Royals’ win as they got the better of an under-confident Kings XI Punjab rather easily. Sreesanth’s early wickets set back Punjab very badly, and Royals’ cause was aided by the fact that all the other bowlers also chipped in with wickets at regular intervals. Although Punjab fought back valiantly with the ball, they did not have enough runs on the board.
While Royals were superior in all departments, it was Sreesanth’s dual strikes early on that set Punjab on the back foot completely. Sreesanth bowled two very good deliveries, first to dismiss Adam Gilchrist for a duck, yet another failure for the skipper, and then sent back Mandeep Singh in the very same over. Having lost both their openers with virtually nothing on the board, Punjab were anyways in big trouble. However, matters only got worse for them. Manan Vohra was smartly run out by James Faulkner soon after, and there was no comeback mode for Punjab from thereon.
David Hussey, like in the last game, batted very maturely, but as in Punjab’s previous encounter, he got no support from the others. The Aussie’s batting was the only reason of cheer for Punjab, but it wasn’t good enough for the visitors to win. It also did not help Punjab’s cause that all the Royals bowlers did a highly commendable job, picking up crucial wickets and, at the same time, ensuring that the run rate was always under control. Apart from his brilliant run out, Faulkner also chipped in with a couple of scalps. Kevon Cooper and Siddharth Tridevi also picked up two wickets each as Punjab were restricted to a paltry total.
Chasing the modest total, Royals got off to a superlative start, with Shane Watson blazing away. His blistering knock set up the chase perfectly for Royals, and from there, a victory seemed like a mere formality for Royals. Under the circumstances, the Punjab bowlers came back exceedingly well to give their struggling side an outside chance. The dismissal of Watson by Parvinder Awana made a one-sided game a lot more competitive. Praveen Kumar’s incisive spell during which he sent back the in-form Rahul Dravid and Stuart Binny cheaply kept Punjab in the hunt till the very end.
Under the circumstances, Ajinkya Rahane came up with a very mature knock. Being well aware that Royals needed only one decent partnership to get through, Rahane did well to keep Royals afloat. He found an able ally in the experienced Brad Hodge. And though the Aussie fell with the target still quite a distance away, Rahane, in the company of Sanju Samson, batted in a highly admirable manner to see Royals through. The match went into the last over, which meant the chase wasn’t easy, but Punjab had too few to defend.
Turning point of the game: Sreesanth’s dismissal of the Punjab openers in his very first over.
--By A Cricket Analyst