Delhi Capitals may have fallen short by just 12 runs as the Rajasthan Royals went on to win their second game in as many matches at the 2024 Indian Premier League in Jaipur, but both sides knew that in a format of close margins, one innings can make all the difference.

The innings on Thursday came from was Riyan Parag, who has restarted the conversation around him, for good reasons this time.

Capitals’ new ball bowling jolted the Royals early but it was a solid recovery by the Royals’ batting line-up that ensured they posted 185/5. Delhi started well and David Warner was on to something before he lost partners on the other end and eventually was dismissed for 43.

Royals topped it up with a good bowling performance that ensured Tristan Stubbs did not take the game away with his unbeaten 23-ball 44.

Avesh Khan, who was defending 17 off the last over, displayed some fine death bowling skills and he conceded just four runs in the final over to halt the Capitals’ chase at 173/5.

Turning point

Ravichandran Ashwin’s promotion

Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson all struggled against the new ball. Capitals’ bowlers Khaleel Ahmed and Mukesh Kumar swung the ball and accounted for the wickets of Jaiswal and Samson, reducing Rajasthan Royals to 31/2 in the powerplay.

In just the next over, Kuldeep Yadav then made an excellent call with the DRS as he trapped Buttler plumb leaving them reeling at 38/3.

The turning point of the match came in when Ravichandran Ashwin came in as a pinch hitter for the side at No 5. He steadied the innings and struck a few sixes to provide the impetus, also took pressure off Parag who then batted in a way that opened the doors for the Royals to push for a competitive total.

Ashwin made a slow start, scoring five off the first six balls he faced, and then suddenly pulled out the intent.

Ashwin first charged at Yadav for a six, and then pulled Anrich Nortje for two sixes. This handy cameo had paved the way for intent in the latter half of the innings which Parag, Dhruv Jurel and Shimron Hetmyer all eventually benefitted from.

He was eventually dismissed by Axar Patel for 29 off 19 with Royals 90 for 4 at 6.2 overs. But Ashwin had played a pivotal role in aiding Royals’ recovery.

Ashwin’s entry did delay Hetmyer’s arrival at the crease, as Jurel later joined a well-set Parag after the West Indian departed with a score of 14 off seven. The moves worked out well for Royals, eventually.

Player of the match

Riyan Parag displayed a masterclass in hitting both sides of the wicket during his unbeaten 84 off 45 – his best T20 score. He scored only 26 runs off the first 26 balls he faced, but he subsequently went on to revive Royals innings after that. He went on to score 58 runs off the last 15 balls he faced.

The highlight remained Parag going after after Nortje, one of the best fast bowlers in the circuit, for 25 runs in the final over. Whether Nortje opted for bouncers or yorkers, Parag took them on to score 4, 4, 6, 4, 6 and 1 in that over.

As a result of that, RR had put up a solid 185 to defend.

‘I am seeing the fruits of the practice now’

It’s been five years since Parag was identified as one of their primary domestic talents by Royals. All it took was one ball for Royals to make that investment in him, said High Performance Director Zubin Bharucha in an interview with Scroll.

Last year, Parag scored 78 runs in seven innings at an average of 13. In all these years, there were glimpses of promise but the last year was extremely disappointing. He has worked hard, he admits. Could this finally be the year that Parag comes of age?

“It’s the fruit of a lot of practice behind the scenes. It’s not the bowler but the ball he’s bowling and I practised against a lot of those balls and could execute a few of them [shots] tonight.

“I have my options ready both sides of the wicket, that’s what I’ve been working on lately. I back myself, I know I have got the power and the strength to dig out yorkers and get sixes off short balls. Then, it’s just back myself to hit the boundaries. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.

It’s [journey] been tough, I am a bit emotional right now. But it’s been a lot of work. I backed myself, practiced a lot and am seeing the fruits of it now.

— Rajasthan Royals batter Riyan Parag

League table after the match on March 29

1 CSK 2 2 0 1.979 4
2 RR 2 2 0 0.800 4
3 SRH 2 1 1 0.675 2
4 KKR 1 1 0 0.200 2
5 PBKS 2 1 1 0.025 2
6 RCB 2 1 1 -0.180 2
7 GT 2 1 1 -1.425 2
8 DC 2 0 2 -0.528 0
9 MI 2 0 2 -0.925 0
10 LSG 1 0 1 -1.000 0