Rashid Khan continues to be a cheat code in Twenty20 cricket. On Wednesday, he proved to be instrumental for Gujarat Titans yet again as they sneaked in a three-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals in a thriller at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur.

Even though the numbers he returned with were not mind-boggling per se but the Afghan stood out with an economical bowling figures of 1/18 and an unbeaten cameo of 24 off 11 that took the team across the line in the chase.

Earlier it was turning out to be quite the season for Riyan Parag, who notched up his third fifty of the season against Gujarat Titans.

It became clear early in Royals’ innings that the surface that was a bit two-paced and Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad operating in tandem did not make things easier. Royals were down to 42/2 in 5.4 overs and the heavy lifting had to be done by the middle order.

Khan’s leg-spin looked troublesome but Matthew Wade dropping Parag twice off his bowling did not help.

Captain Sanju Samson (68*) and Parag (76) went on to stitch a solid 130-run partnership to help their team navigate after a turbulent start to eventually finish with 196/3.

Chasing 194, Gujarat Titans were off to a steady start with Shubman Gill (72) and Sai Sudharsan (35) opening the innings. However, Kuldeep Sen delivered an impactful spell to derail the chase. In just his second delivery, he had Sudharsan walking back.

However, his second over was even better as he ended up momentarily putting the Titans’ chase in trouble at 83/3 in 11 overs.

Sen first delivered a wobble seam short of length delivery angled away wide of off, and Matthew Wade went hard on the cut, resulting in a thick inside edge that rebounded back to hit middle and off. His third wicket came off a 144 kph seam-up delivery that beat Abhinav Manohar and left his bat hanging on the back foot.

The Titans lost their lower middle order wickets too with Yuzvendra Chahal chipping in before cameo-men Rahul Tewatia and Khan did their thing.

Turning point of the match

Before the penultimate over, Titans needed 35 off 12. Royals had the upper hand with Sen looking confident after a fiery spell but Tewatia and Khan took him down for 20 runs in his final over.

Royals’ were handed a slow-over rate penalty and as a result, Avesh Khan had to bowl the final over with only four men out on the boundary.

In the final over, Khan carved Avesh out for a boundary over square leg in the very first delivery. He then sneaked in two runs when Avesh attempted a yorker in his second delivery. In the third, Khan sliced a drive that went past the keeper on the right and just like that, the pressure was on Royals. Titans needed 5 off 3.

In the next delivery, the Titans managed to sneak in just the single but the equation was down to 4 off 2.

And then, even as Tewatia was run-out in the penultimate delivery, Khan kept his cool to hit a four when the equation demanded 2 off the final ball.

The Field’s player of the match

One ought to feel for Riyan Parag, who is (not so quietly) going about his business being Rajasthan’s go-to man this season. His innings almost proved to be the difference yet again but Rashid Khan’s all-round show eventually trumped the Royals’ efforts.

The leg-spinner first bowled with incredible control to concede just 18 runs in his four overs. He picked up the wicket of Jos Buttler but could have had one more if not for the dropped catches.

While the four other Titans’ bowlers went for an economy rate of over 9.20 overs, Khan bowled at a miserly economy rate of just 4.50 overs.

To top it up, his cameo off 24* off 11 ensured Titans chased their second highest target in the Indian Premier League and handed table-toppers Royals their first defeat of the season.

‘Back to my best’

When asked to choose which bit of his all-round show was he more pleased by, Khan answered by saying that it was the victory that was most pleasing. However, he admitted to feeling better about getting his bowling rhythm back.

“I was struggling a bit with the bowling and was happy I was hitting the right areas today, and that made me happier, and gave me energy in my batting. I have not bowled much in the last three or four months and I was just trying to get used to bowling again. Trying to get that feel back in my fingers as I had just lost a little bit of grip. I felt I was a little bit back to my best.”

— Rashid Khan on his bowling performance after the match
Points table after GT v RR