IPL 2019: Ashwin stars in Punjab's dominating win over Rajasthan

Rajasthan moved to a position of strength in its chase of 182 but stumbled once again despite having a brisk start.

Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates after getting the wicket of Rahul Tripathi.   -  AP Photo

When the Steve Smith-less Rajasthan Royals took the field against Kings XI Punjab, the team appeared to have conceded the psychological edge to the host.

And later in the evening, the way Rajasthan batsmen suffered from a now-familiar ‘panic attack’, it only highlighted Ajinkya Rahane-led team’s lack of collective self-belief, no matter how close it gets to victory.

As seen so many times this season, Rajasthan moved to a position of strength as it chased 182. Notwithstanding the brisk start given by Jos Buttler, the team stumbling once again. From 97 for two, Rajasthan slipped to 133 for six and never looked like crossing the line.

Highlights: KXIP vs RR

Both teams made three changes. Punjab replaced Sam Curran, Sarfaraz Khan and Andrew Tye with Mujeeb, David Miller and  Arshdeep. Rajasthan brought in Ashton Turner, Stuart Binny and Sodhi for Smith, Liam Livingstone and K. Gowtham.

Like Punjab, Rajasthan, too, saw its top four batsmen get starts. Promoted to open the innings, Rahul Tripathi scored a half-century to match his opposite number K. L. Rahul’s efforts, but the team lost wickets in a heap in the 'death overs' and eventually fell 12 runs short.

Overall, Punjab clearly won the big moments. If Punjab eventually reached 182 for six, it was mainly due to the addition of 85 runs in the last seven overs.

However, after the side lost four wickets in the space of 13 deliveries, not many expected the last five balls from Dhawal Kulkarni to result in much. But Man-of-the-Match R. Ashwin hoisted sixes off the last two deliveries to take Punjab past the 180-run mark.

Read: Rahul trudges to fifty a day after World Cup selection

As it turned out, those two hits from Ashwin set up the victory margin. In fact, just when Rajasthan was looking to accelerate, it was Ashwin who dismissed Tripathi and Sanju Samson to trigger Rajasthan’s batting collapse.

Rahul, who reached double-digits in the 10th over and found his first boundary in the 12th, was virtually a spectator for the better part of Punjab’s innings. In fact, he faced 17 out of 42 dot-balls in the Punjab innings.

It was only after a pro-active Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal departed that Rahul changed gears in the company of comeback-man David Miller.

Also read: Rahul Tripathi hammers maiden fifty in IPL 2019

Rahul and Miller added 85 runs off 52 balls, including 19 off Ish Sodhi and 20 off Unadkat in successive overs to take the total to 136 after 15 overs.

Jofra Archer was the man who kept Punjab in check. He provided the breakthrough by sending back Gayle and returned to scalp Nicholas Pooran and Mandeep Singh one over. He also took catches of Rahul and Mayank Agarwal to do his bit for the team. Alas, Archer’s efforts stood undone by the below par show of the Rajasthan batsmen.