Having won only three of the eight matches they played in the first phase of the Indian T20 League, getting off to a good start was of utmost importance for Team Punjab. However, they failed to do so in their first match of the UAE phase, losing a thrilling encounter against Team Rajasthan.
Things went wrong for the men in red right from the very beginning. To begin things off, their team selection surprised many, as they did not include the veteran T20 superstar Chris Gayle in their team. Instead, Anil Kumble and the assistant coaches showed faith in Aiden Markram, who had absolutely no prior experience of playing in IPL.
Lewis-Jaiswal opening partnership clicks in their first match together
Rajasthan got off to a good start, as both of their opening batters in Yashasvi Jaiswal and Evin Lewis hit the fifth gear right at the very beginning. In the first five overs, it was all about Rajasthan, as both Mohammed Shami and his Bengal teammate Ishan Porel went for runs.
After the first five overs, Rajasthan found themselves at 53/0. Punjab did manage to get the wickets of Evin Lewis and Sanju Samson in quick succession, but there was no effect of those dismissals on the strike rate of Rajasthan batters.
Mahipal Lomror finally makes his mark
English all-rounder Liam Livingstone’s cameo of 25 runs from 17 balls helped Rajasthan put up a total of 116 after 12 overs, but after his dismissal, Rajasthan needed someone to ensure that the run-rate does not take a dip. They sent Mahipal Lomror ahead of Riyan Parag, and it turned out to be a fantastic move.
Prior to today, Lomror had played 7 matches across three seasons. However, owing to his inconsistent performances, he could never really nail his place down in the team. In those seven matches, he had only scored 87 runs. However, after his stunning knock of 43 runs from 17 balls, he should be a regular feature in the Rajasthan team.
The Arshdeep Singh show
Having picked up the wicket of Evin Lewis in the 6th over and that of Liam Livingstone in the 12th over, Arshdeep Singh got his third wicket of the match in the first ball of the 18th over. Looking to hit over long-on, Lomror did not get the desired connection and ended up giving Aiden Markram an easy catch. At that point, Rajasthan had 169 runs on the board with almost three overs to spare, and it seemed as if 200 was very getable.
However, the young left-arm pacer, Arshdeep Singh had other plans. In the 18th over of the match, he conceded only 6 runs. He was brought back in the attack to bowl the final over the match. After conceding only one boundary in the first four balls, he picked up two wickets in the last two balls. Singh completed his five-wicket haul by picking up the wickets of Chetan Sakariya and Kartik Tyagi.
Missed catches haunt Rajasthan
Chasing a very big total, Punjab had a fantastic start. However, it would not have been half as fantastic, had Rajasthan taken their chances. Punjab skipper KL Rahul received three lifelines, which helped him get Punjab in the driver’s seat.
Evin Lewis was the first to let go of the opportunity to dismiss Rahul, as his diving effort might have helped him reach the ball, but it simply didn’t stick to his palms. In the fifth over the match, Riyan Parag dropped what was arguably the easiest chance of the lot.
Chris Morris’ slower ball fooled Rahul as he skied his shot, but Parag was unable able to get his composure right and ended up dropping an easy chance. Just one over later, Rajasthan dropped their third chance. Standing at short fine leg, Chetan Sakariya was the culprit this time around.
Thanks to these three dropped chances, Rahul managed to score 49 runs off 33 balls, while Mayank Agarwal scored 67 runs off 43 balls. By the time these two were dismissed, Punjab had 126 runs on the board at the end of 13 overs.
Pooran-Markram partnership kept the scoreboard ticking
After the dismissals of the openers, one would have expected Punjab’s run-rate to fall, but that was not the case. In their first over together, Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran amassed 16 runs. In a span of 30 balls, between the thirteen and the eighteenth over, the duo had amassed 52 runs. At the end of the eighteenth over, Punjab were 178/2, needing just 8 runs from to overs.
Mustafizur Rahman keeps Rajasthan in the hunt
A very common saying in T20 cricket is that the penultimate over of an innings is more important than the final one. This match would not have come down to Kartik Tyagi’s concluding act, had it not been for Mustafizur Rahman’s superb bowling in the nineteenth over. Needing 8 runs only, both Markram and Pooran were looking for boundaries. However, they could only score 4 runs off the Bangladeshi seamer’s over.
Magical final over by Kartik Tyagi
Even after Rahman’s brilliant over, many thought the match was all set and done. Punjab needed only 4 runs from 6 balls, and the bowler they were facing, Kartik Tyagi had conceded 28 runs in his first three overs. However, what followed was beyond spectacular. After starting with a dot ball, Tyagi conceded a single in the second ball, which brought the big hitter Nicholas Pooran on strike. A pin-point yorker caught the outside edge of Pooran’s bat, sending him back to the pavilion. Needing 3 runs from 3 balls, Deepak Hooda came out to bat.
Hooda had no answers to two full-length deliveries from the youngster, and in the second of those balls, he threw his wicket away. New batsman Fabian Allen was greeted with yet another yorker which was bowled with exceptional precision, and like Pooran and Hooda, he too failed to make a proper connection. Rajasthan fans will not forget this over for a long, long time, as Tyagi helped them close the gap with fourth-placed Mumbai. Punjab, however, will need to get this defeat out of their heads soon, as they need to win all of their remaining five games to qualify for the play-offs.