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IPL 2023: No happy homecoming for Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur

RR vs LSG: A sluggish pitch and a poor chase see the Royals falling 10 runs short against LSG in their first match at home since 2019.

Lucknow Super Giants bowler Marcus Stoinis celebrates a wicket with teammates during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, in Jaipur, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (IPL/Twitter)

Synopsis: LSG bowlers use sluggish pitch to defend a modest target against Rajasthan Royals. Rahul’s pedestrian start doesn’t prove costly while Ashwin’s quality spell goes in vain.

Rajasthan Royals will consider this game as one that got away. At 87/0 in the 12th over chasing 155, they would have thought they were more than halfway to the target. But a combination of a sluggish pitch, the fast bowlers employing change of pace cleverly, and complacency got Lucknow Super Giants out of jail as they emerged victorious by 10 runs.

The Sawai Mansingh Stadium was hosting its first IPL match since 2019, and the pitch on offer was not a belter by any means. Batsmen needed time to get used to it, and when set players got out, the fielding side got back into the game.

Both innings mirrored each other to a large extent. LSG’s batting effort took place in fits and starts. They got off to a pedestrian start, but were 82/0 in the 11th over before losing their way. It soon became 104/4 in the 14th from where Nicholas Pooran and Marcus Stoinis somehow got them to a score with which they could hope to fight.

Pace off does the trick

LSG were missing speedster Mark Wood, but the trio of Avesh Khan (3/25), Naveen-ul-Haq (0/19) and Stoinis (2/28) came to the party. They used the vagaries of the pitch to good effect, taking pace off the ball to throw the batsmen off their rhythm in their combined 12 overs.

Rajasthan openers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler started in sedate fashion. With the Englishman struggling to find the gaps early in his innings, his younger partner took the lead. Full balls were driven down the ground, and against deliveries even slightly short, he was quick to rock back for the pull or slash.

When Buttler hit a 112m six over square leg off Yudhvir Singh, he seemed to be hitting his stride. But a 41-ball knock of 40 was a strange one given his reputation and class.

When Jaiswal was dismissed for a 35-ball 44 in the 12th over, it gave LSG a chance to make a comeback. The asking rate was well within control but Sanju Samson’s runout for 2 proved to be the turning point, given that Buttler was not his usual self. Shimron Hetmyer, one of the heroes of the Royals’ win over Gujarat Titans, too couldn’t recreate the magic. When he got out at the total of 104 at the start of the 16th over, the game was more or less up. Impact player Devdutt Padikkal and Riyan Parag kept going with some big hits, but the task always seemed beyond them.

KL Rahul’s circumspect approach puts his batting partner under a lot of pressure. The LSG captain played out a maiden from Trent Boult in the opening over, and had a pretty torturous Powerplay. He wouldn’t have survived the first six overs had it not been for two dropped catches and a missed runout.

The franchise came into Wednesday’s fixture with three wins in their first five games, but the debate over Rahul’s strike rate had been unending. He scored a half-century against Punjab Kings, but when LSG came out on the wrong end of the result, there was talk that Rahul should have scored quicker than the 56-ball 74 he eventually contributed.

Lucknow Super Giants’ Kyle Mayers bats during the Indian Premier League cricket match between Lucknow Super Giants and Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur, India, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (AP)

Interestingly, it was after the fielding restrictions were relaxed that the two openers began opening their shoulders. Overs 8 and 9 went for 31 runs, with Yuzvendra Chahal conceding 18 in six balls, with both batsmen helping themselves to a six each.

The team reached 79/0 at the halfway mark, but when Rahul holed out in the deep off Jason Holder soon after, the next man in – Ayush Badoni – too didn’t last long. Rajasthan Royals brought Boult for his final over in the 12th of the innings, and the youngster tried to take the left-armer on rather than play him out, to his own cost.

Mayers has been keeping Quinton de Kock out of the XI, and he kept the run rate going almost singlehandedly. His fifty came off 40 balls but the West Indian and Deepak Hooda went back to the dugout in the same over.

It resulted in a lull for a considerable time, before Pooran got hold of Holder in the 19th over as 17 runs came off it; runs that proved decisive in the end.

Impressive Ashwin

Rajasthan Royals had relied on their spin troika of Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin and Aam Zampa in previous games. But with the Australian missing from the line-up and Chahal going for above 10 runs an over, the veteran off-spinner needed to step up once again. And he did.

Getting Hooda and Mayers in the same over took the wind out of LSG’s sails to a large extent. Ashwin bowls a lot of ‘difficult’ overs – inside the Powerplay and at the death. Figures of 2/23 in four overs can often decide the outcome of games, but not this time.

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