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IPL 2022: Royals show pedigree


By the 15th over, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s asking rate had climbed to 23-plus. They were gasping for breath at 72/5, back-to-back sixes from Romario Shepherd notwithstanding. The game was long done and dusted, when Sunrisers slipped to 14/3 inside the Powerplay, against Rajasthan Royals’ 210/6. In the end, Sunrisers lost by 61 runs. They were never in the game.

Royals flex muscles

By the look of it, Royals want to set the record straight this term. One of the perennial also-rans of the Indian Premier League, barring the first season when they won the tournament under Shane Warne’s captaincy, Royals basically played to make up the numbers. A change could be on the cards. It reflected in the franchise’s aggressive auction strategy and in the 15th edition of the IPL, they have a team that can flex its muscles. Batting, pace and spin – Royals have covered all the bases.

Their tournament opener in Pune on Tuesday was a case in point. Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal stitched a quickfire 58-run opening partnership. Sanju Samson scored a gorgeous half-century, coming in at No. 3. Devdutt Padikkal gave his skipper good company, making 41 off 29 balls and adding 73 runs for the third wicket. Shimron Hetmyer put the finishing touches with a 13-ball 32. The Royals batting thrived on its depth.

Their fast bowling was spearheaded by Trent Boult’s quality, Prasidh Krishna’s swing and Nathan Coulter-Nile’s hit-the-deck stuff. The Aussie didn’t have a good game, but Boult and Krishna used the new ball superbly. Krishna took out Kane Williamson and Rahul Tripathi, while Boult accounted for Nicholas Pooran. New-ball bowling was the key on a greenish Pune pitch. Royals sizzled, Sunrisers fizzled.

Then, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled in tandem, the leg-spinner returning with 3/22 from four overs. Early days, but Royals provided ample proof of moving towards the collective from their earlier over-reliance on individual brilliance.

Sunrisers’ bowling indiscipline

Sunrisers duly paid for their bowling indiscipline. Four no-balls in the first five overs is unpardonable at this level and the team’s post-mortem of this defeat would certainly address the issue. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the offender twice, his first no-ball costing him Buttler’s scalp.

The pitch called for Test-match lengths from new-ball bowlers and Kumar straightaway hit his straps. His fifth delivery swung away and took the outside edge, as Buttler threw his hands at the ball. Abdul Samad took a smart catch at first slip, but the bowler had overstepped by a couple of inches.

Buttler should have been out for a duck. He went on to score a 28-ball 35. Royals put on 58 for no loss in six overs and that was where Sunrisers surrendered the initiative.

Buttler was lucky again, edging an Umran Malik thunderbolt – 150kph – but the ball slipped through the hands of Samad at first slip. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, for Malik had overstepped.

When Washington Sundar, an off-spinner, bowled a no-ball, Williamson’s patience snapped. The Sunrisers captain, usually uber-cool, channelled all his anger into a hard glare. Washington apologised.

Malik atoned for his mistake, and a 21-run first over, when he came back for his second spell. He found the right line and length, and dismissed Buttler with a superfast delivery. Later, he also beat Padikkal for pace. But the damage was done. The surface had eased out, the ball was coming nicely on to the bat and Samson was in his element to build on a solid foundation.

The new ball was Sunrisers’ best chance to grab the game by the lapels after winning the toss. They shot themselves in the foot. Their batting raised the white flag after early wickets.

From their perspective, and also Indian cricket’s point of view, however, Kumar’s bowling was a positive. Not only was he economical amid the carnage, but the veteran seamer also swung the ball beautifully. He had lost the bend last year, but has worked on his wrist position and the ball is moving again.

Samson’s sparkling fifty

When on song, Samson’s batting is a connoisseurs’ delight. A rapid start by Buttler and Jaiswal gave the Royals skipper the licence to entertain, and he waltzed to a 27-ball 55, including three fours and five sixes.

Left-arm spinner Abhishek Sharma had extended a bit of favour to Samson to start with, bowling a couple of short deliveries and conceding a four and a six, but some shots from the batsman were gorgeous. The way he pivoted to pull a Shepherd delivery for a six or his flat-batted maximum against Sundar deserved applause. The offie had a forgettable outing, but Samson didn’t mind. His flick off Malik was exquisite. His knock revelled in picking the length unerringly. It took the game away from Sunrisers.





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