Stalling it: Royals crash to fourth consecutive defeat | Crickit
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Stalling it: Royals crash to fourth consecutive defeat

May 16, 2024 12:14 AM IST

Calm fifty from Sam Curran seals five-wicket win for Punjab Kings after Royals batting fail miserably again

Still nothing to worry about since the playoffs have been reached, but Rajasthan Royals could be fretting at worrying similarities emerging from the last two of the four consecutive defeats now.

Guwahati: Punjab Kings' captain Sam Curran and Ashutosh Sharma celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 T20 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Punjab Kings (PBKS)(PTI)
Guwahati: Punjab Kings' captain Sam Curran and Ashutosh Sharma celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 T20 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Punjab Kings (PBKS)(PTI)

Chennai, Guwahati have been two-paced pitches that haven’t favoured batters, and both times Royals haven’t breached 150 batting first. The main spinners on both occasions—Ravindra Jadeja in Chennai and Rahul Chahar at Guwahati—have averaged under seven, and both times Riyan Parag ended as highest scorer.

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Royals’ campaign before these two defeats will tell you that not playing spin too well hasn’t bothered them a lot. In fact, it has barely made a difference. Punjab Kings didn’t deploy any spinner in the first Powerplay but as long as Sam Curran and Nathan Ellis mixed it up with a length ball or a slower bouncer, Royals came unstuck. That was cue for Harshal Patel to enter and he did what he does best, bowling slower after slower to concede just four runs in the last over of Powerplay.

Stacked with stroke players, Royals batting can look flamboyant but only till they are pressed to graft. No, Jos Buttler finally meant a chance for little-known English batter Tom Kohler-Cadmore, but the pitch started playing tricks on his mind after a couple of promising hits. Dhruv Jurel was perhaps unlucky to find Harpreet Brar at midwicket off an absolute half-tracker from Curran but completely foxed was Rovman Powell by a wrong'un from Chahar that yielded a dolly of a caught-and-bowled chance that was gleefully accepted.

Most evident however was the helplessness injected into their batting after Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson returned early. R Ashwin going 6,4,4 off Chahar in the 12th over meant that was the only time Royals had scored more than 14 in an otherwise disappointing innings that started with a powerplay run rate of 6.3 and ended with 7.16 in the slog overs. Royals returned the favour when Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal were bowling, but more impactful was Avesh Khan’s double strike in the fourth over.

Tempted by a full and wide delivery, Rilee Rossouw threw the kitchen sink at it but sliced it instead, ending in a sharp catch for Jaiswal at backward point. Khan struck again in two balls, again going full and quick but straighter, prompting Shashank Singh to flick it but completely missing it and getting rapped plumb on his pads. Jonny Bairstow finding Donovan Ferreira at long-on in the eighth over could have triggered an implosion but Jitesh Sharma and Sam Curran combined to add 63 in 46 balls to slowly bring Punjab Kings back in the chase.

Key to this turnaround was not letting the tempo drop in the middle overs, and taking the charge to Ashwin and Chahal in their final overs. Twenty-three runs added in those two—15th and 16th—overs meant even though Sharma was ultimately dismissed, it had provided enough wind to the final phase of Punjab Kings’ chase. The problem with such a sub-par total was that Samson couldn’t afford to keep Chahal and Ashwin for the backend.

By the time they were bowled out, Punjab Kings were pegged back but not enough to make them stutter. That Curran ended up being the only batter from both sides to reach a fifty here goes on to tell you how difficult this change to Guwahati has been on both teams. Strike rate wasn’t of as much importance here as was Curran’s game awareness—pacing the chase well and biding his time to build a valuable stand with Sharma.

Keeping Curran in the hunt though were those big hits—sweeping Chahal, stepping out to him and drilling him through midwicket and carting Ashwin over extra cover for a six. Once the ask had been w

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