Four defeats in a row can be devastating for any team, even if they come right after you’ve won the first two games of the season. Doubts creep in and one wonders if the initial success was merely a flash in the pan.
Rajasthan Royals were facing such insecurities heading into their Indian Premier League clash with Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday. It was a crucial game for their campaign. Their batting department was providing little confidence and with SRH’s quality bowling attack to deal with, the odds were stacked against them.
What made matters worse for Rajasthan was their top-order failing to fire yet again. At 78/5 after 12 overs, chasing a target of 159, it looked like the men in pink were set to add to their losing streak.
But what happened from there on has breathed life into the Royals’ campaign. From a seemingly hopeless position, they rode on contributions from their middle-order batsmen, something they’ve been in desperate need of, to bag two valuable points.
Tewatia shows he’s the real deal
Rahul Tewatia’s jaw-dropping knock against Kings XI Punjab earlier in the tournament will remain one of the highlights of this season. He was 8 off 19 at one stage in that innings and ended up with a match-winning 53 off 31. The left-hander went on a six-hitting rampage to score 45 runs off the last 12 balls he faced and helped his team achieve the highest successful run-chase in IPL history.
As phenomenal as his effort in that game was, though, one couldn’t help but wonder if it was simply one of those freak performances that aren’t a true reflection of a player’s caliber. Tewatia, who has played seven first-class games for Haryana, became an overnight star but for him to be considered as a pillar in Rajasthan’s middle order, he had to replicate his success.
And that’s exactly what he did against SRH on Sunday. In a way, his unbeaten 28-ball 45 was a better knock than the one he got against KXIP. He took his time once again and got to 9 off 14, but from there on he timed his acceleration to perfection.
The 27-year-old showed courage by taking on the in-form Rashid Khan and hitting a hat-trick of fours in the 18th over, before showing his range as a batsman in the next over by hitting T Natarajan for a four and then scooping the following delivery for six. It was this attack against SRH’s best bowlers that turned the match in Rajasthan’s favour.
“My role has been clear from the start. I had been batting well so I had the confidence,” said Tewatia after picking up the player of the match award. “Even in the practice games here (in Dubai), I was hitting the ball well. It’s about performing your role. The wicket was slow and I thought the better option was to take the match deep. There was no point throwing away our wickets due to the climbing required-rate.”
Parag steps up
While Tewatia’s continued success is a great sign for the Royals, what was perhaps a bigger plus for them in the SRH game was young Riyan Parag’s effort.
After scoring 160 runs at an average of 32 in his first IPL season last year, Parag was expected to provide stability to Rajasthan’s middle-order this season. But the 18-year-old got off to a forgettable start and registered scores of 6, 0, 1 and 16 before being dropped from the team in the last game.
However, he recovered from the setback quickly and proved his mettle with a match-winning contribution against the Sunrisers. Parag walked in to bat when the team’s score was 63/4 in the 10th over. Rajasthan required 96 runs to win from 65 balls at that time and were in desperate need of a partnership.
Just like Tewatia, the right-hander took time at the start of his innings, dealing in singles and doubles, and got to 12 off 14. The first boundary he hit, a six off Khaleel Ahmed, came off the 17th delivery he faced. But he upped the ante in the following over and picked consecutive fours off Sandeep Sharma. Tewatia then went after Khan and Natarajan, before Parag finished off the chase with another six off Ahmed.
The youngster’s unbeaten 26-ball 42 was just what Rajasthan needed. They’ve been searching for answers in the middle order – chopping and changing personnel and shuffling the batting – and Parag taking responsibility will offer a great degree of balance to the side.
“Riyan, as a young kid, showed great composure... played some great cricket shots,” Rajasthan Royals skipper Steve Smith said after the game. “He was magnificent. He was busy at the start of his innings, which we wanted him to be. And then we’ve seen how powerful and innovative he is with the different shots he can play. Proud of him that he could come back in and score some runs straight up. Hopefully, it sets him up for a good finish to this IPL.”
Here’s a chat between Tewatia and Parag after Sunday’s game:
It’s still an uphill battle for the Royals. They’re in sixth position on the points table – three wins from seven games – and have a lot to do to reach the playoffs. But the manner in which they got the win on Sunday, with the middle order stepping up, is a step in the right direction. It will allow the big guns at the top of the order to bat with more freedom and more importantly, it will instill belief in the entire squad.