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Rajasthan Defeats Punjab to Keep Play-Off Hopes Alive
(New Delhi, May 08, 2018):Having held hosts Rajasthan at 158, R Ashwin & Co must have been very satisfied. For they had clawed back and restricted a free-flowing RR well under 170. But when Punjab batted, it looked a clear case of a plan going awry. On a tricky wicket, Punjab lost wickets in bunches, refrained from developing stands and eventually went down at the Sawai Man Singh stadium by 15 runs on Tuesday. Jos Buttler's 82 off 58 balls at the top and later Krishnappa Gowtham's twin strikes early made the difference for Rajasthan. With this victory, Rajasthan climbed two places to sit at the sixth place while KXIP remained on the third spot.

While KL Rahul held fort and carried his bat through to continue his purple patch (95 not out off 70 balls), losing partners from the other end not only put pressure on Punjab but also robbed Rahul of taking his chances against the RR bowlers. Rahul had taken Punjab home against the same opposition two days back at Indore but his masterclass at Jaipur couldn't help Punjab garner two points. With the eventual difference being 15 runs, Rahul needed just a partner who could who could rotate strike. But that wasn't to be as Punjab kept losing wickets at regular intervals.

The Punjab batsmen paid for their overambitious approach as they failed to come to terms with the pace of the wicket. While Chris Gayle got stumped around the legs, the following five wickets were an evidence of poor shot selection. It was a chase which demanded application and a calculated approach, but KXIP opted to go after the bowling at a bad time. Krishnappa Gowtham picked two wickets in consecutive balls in the power play and conceded just 12 runs in three overs. Then Jofra Archer bowled a quick bouncer to cramp Karun Nair for space. Punjab were pegged back. Period.

After the RR innings, Punjab pacer Andrew Tye said that it was important to score well in the power play as it would help later while chasing such a target. However, Punjab batsmen lost three wickets in the power play, forcing Rahul to stem the rot and not to force on.

RR, on the other hand, rode on Jos Buttler's brilliance with the bat (82 runs off 58 balls) and had scored 63/1 in the first six overs. The Punjab bowlers were all over the place in the power play and that hurt them eventually.

Back to their Jaipur fortress, Jos Buttler was RR's knight in shining armour against a buoyant KXIP. Caught in a precarious situation where the only way up is to win every game to qualify for knockouts, Buttler stood like a wall hard to bring down.

The English batsman was at his brutal best as he used his reach to a great effect to land telling blows on the opposition bowling. He scored 82 powering RR towards what proved to be winning total.

For Rajasthan, the biggest challenge against a batting heavy Punjab was to put up a big score. Thanks to Buttler who ensured Rajasthan were put on course as he targeted every loose ball and dispatched it to the boundary. His assault was launched in the very first over when he showed class and elegance. He never tried to manufacture strokes but ensured width was punished. Marcus Stoinis paid for straying twice. Axar Patel too was milked for offering width outside off and quick pace. Mohit Sharma erred with length and Buttler ably placed all of them for boundaries.

Andrew Tye was the next to take on and after playing one good over from him, Buttler had a stable base and picked consecutive boundaries in his next over. RR were 63/1 after the powerplay at over 10 per over.

For Punjab, Andrew Tye's effort of four wickets, which also earned him the purple cap, couldn't ensure the side a win. Not just Tye, the breakthrough and the brakes were put on with the help of some intelligent bowling by Afghanistan's mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. He picked up two wickets -- that of Sanju Samson and dangerman Jos Buttler -- to help KXIP claw back.

On both occasions, it was his googly that did the trick. Both Samson and Buttler jumped out fractionally early to signal Mujeeb to alter his length. His late release aided in delivering the googly and the batsmen were deceived.

Before the 20th over, Tye had forgettable figures of 3-0-28-1, though he did pick Ajinkya Rahane early with a knuckleball. Tye experienced expensive two overs later on but it was the 20th over in which Tye totally cut down on his pace and tried to be at least predictable. With batsmen charging at him, he rolled fingers and used the knuckleball to good effect.

His three dismissals in the last over were perfect examples of how his reading of the pitch helped him better his figures. The Sawai Man Singh pitch had slowed down considerably and was gripping the surface.

At last, Andrew Tye performed worthwhile on Tuesday to commemorate his grandmother's passing away. The Aussie, who wore a black tape around his arm with grandma written on it, picked three wickets in the last over of the RR innings to restrict the hosts to 158.

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