Over 80,000 people were on edge at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad as Rajasthan Royals broke their four-match losing streak to edge out the Royal Challengers Bengaluru by four wickets in the 2024 Indian Premier League Eliminator on Wednesday.

The team from Bengaluru posted a score of 172/8 before the Royals chased it down with an over to spare.

It was a good toss to win for Rajasthan who put Bengaluru in to bat first. Openers Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis got off to a good start until a brilliant catch from Rovman Powell ended the 37-run partnership. Kohli continued his purple vein of form, but was undone by former Bengaluru teammate Yuzvendra Chahal for 33 off 24 balls. Rajat Patidar was given a reprieve when a top-edge off Ravichandran Ashwin was dropped by Dhruv Jurel. He made good on his luck with a 41-run partnership alongside Cameron Green.

Avesh Khan, who had been hit for a fair bit by Kohli and du Plessis, came back with a bang to break the resurgence stitched together by Bengaluru with the wicket of Patidar. Ashwin showed his experience when he dismissed Green and Glenn Maxwell in consecutive balls. Mahipal Lomror then struck 32 off 17 balls to help Bengaluru post a total of 172/8.

Rajasthan, who haven’t won a single match in the IPL in the month of May, got off to a solid start in the chase with an opening partnership of 46 between Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tom Kohler-Cadmore. It needed a brilliant ball from Lockie Ferguson to break the partnership, but captain Sanju Samson came in at No 3 to steady the chase.

However, things began to turn against Rajasthan as Jaiswal was dismissed with a clever ball from Green and Samson attempted a hit down the ground only to be stumped off Karn Sharma. Bengaluru kept the pressure on with tight overs and a brilliant run-out orchestrated by Kohli that saw Jurel dismissed. But Riyan Parag and impact substitute Shimron Hetmeyer combined for the fifth wicket that helped Rajasthan get over the line with six balls to spare.

Turning point of the match

This match was like a rollercoaster with the number of twists and turns that it had – Ashwin’s double-wicket over, Kohli’s incredible run-out and that double wicket over from Mohammed Siraj that nearly turned things around for Bengaluru.

But in the context of the result, the 17 runs conceded by Green in the 16th over helped Parag and Hetmeyer to reduce the target significantly and decisively turn the game around in favour of Rajasthan.

Before that over, Green had conceded only 11 runs in his previous three overs and completed the run-out of Jurel. Rajasthan also needed 47 off 30 balls and both Parag and Hetmeyer were slightly jittery.

But in that one over from Green, Rajasthan went from slightly slumped shoulders to raised heads and an injection of confidence that helped them to cross over the line.

The Field’s Player of the Match

It hasn’t been the best of tournaments for the veteran spinner, who suggested that shifting formats between Tests and Twenty20s is slightly difficult. But on the day it mattered, Ashwin turned up with a brilliant spell of 2/19 in four overs that proved to be decisive. For that reason, Ashwin is the Field’s Player of the Match.

One of the main reasons for Rajasthan choosing to bowl first was the impact dew would have on the team bowling second in Ahmedabad. While the chase was choppy, Ashwin disagreed on the level of influence from the dew factor and simply stated that the Rajasthan bowlers hit better lengths.

For the 37-year-old, there was nothing fancy in his bowling – a good old carrom ball to get rid of Green and a simple offbreak that confused Maxwell to get his wicket as well.

‘Need to have the character to bounce back’

Although there were nerves galore in the Rajasthan camp, especially after the last run of results, Samson and Co were pleased with the efforts of the team in giving them a good shot at making the final. The Rajasthan captain however alluded to the character and courage of the team that helped them bounce back after a run of bad results.

“What cricket and life has taught us is that we will have some good and some really bad phases. But we need to have the character to bounce back. I’m really happy with the way we fielded, batted and bowled today. Credit goes to the bowlers who are looking at what fields to set and what the opposition batters will do. Credit goes to [Kumar] Sangakkara and bowling coach [Shane] Bond as well. They’ve spent a lot of time discussing these things. If you look at our batting unit [Dhruv Jurel, Yashasvi Jaiswal] there are a lot of youngsters. They are less experienced but they played well.”

— Rajasthan Royals captain Sanju Samson