Spectators at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium had no idea that they were in for a nail-biting, high octane match when they entered the stadium to watch The Royals take on long time champions, Mumbai Indians (MI), on 22nd April 2018. The match started with MI winning the toss and electing to bat, which understandably, is a cause for concern for any franchise. However, the Royals lived up to the challenge as the team finally unleashed Jofra Archer and Dhawal Kulkarni on Mumbai and let their work speak for themselves.
Archer shone as he was responsible for 3 wickets by himself – Mitchell McClenaghan, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya. India Today published an article on the teams’ win and in it; the publication referred to Archer’s bowling as remarkable. The article also stated that it was due to Archer’s efforts that the team was able to restrict MI’s total to an amount that was reasonable enough to catch up to. He spoke about the team’s bowling strategy in the article and said, “It’s good to be back on the park. We just wanted to restrict them. Stokesy and I had a chat, saying we had to pull things back. The chase was a bit nervy, but I knew with our dug-out talent we’re gonna complete it easy. The heartbeat is still pumping.” Dhawal Kulkarni chipped in to help RR’s bowing as well, by claiming Evin Lewis’ wicket within the first run of the game and Ishan Kishan’s wicket, 14 overs in. However, Archer’s bowling was the highlight of The Royals’ bowling run as he rushed to take 3 wickets, all within the 18th over of the game and won the title of the Man of The Match. The game ultimately came down to Mumbai setting a target of 168 runs with 3 wickets to spare. However, the Royals’ batting was to be the main attraction of the show.
Publications such as First Post, India TV, India Today and more voiced similar sentiments about RR’s batting and stated that it was due to RR’s smart pacing in a slow game that allowed the team to achieve their target. While the team lost their opening batsmen fairly early on, a partnership between Boy Wonder, Sanju Samson and heavy hitter, Ben Stokes proved to be fruitful as the two players racked up a 72 run partnership. The Freepress Journal stated that it was due to this partnership that RR was able to get the team back on track. Soon after Stokes was dismissed, Samson teamed up with Jos Buttler to add another 15 runs to their total before both batsmen were dismissed by Jasprit Bumrah. At this point, RR required 43 runs from 22 balls and while runs were slow, fans of the Royals were at the edge of their seats to see how this neck-and-neck match would end. It was at this point that Krishnappa Gowtham walked onto the field with Jofra Archer and put on a truly awe-inspiring performance. Gowtham and Archer proceeded to pick up 18 runs from Bumrah’s over before MI decided to send Hardik Pandya into the fray. Unfortunately, Pandya got his revenge as he claimed Archer’s wicket in the first ball of his over, which left Gowtham with the responsibility of ensuring that the team scored their final 10 runs and in a performance referred to by The First Post as ‘blistering’, Gowtham went above and beyond as he smashed a six and a four, making MI’s defeat certain.
Gowtham was lauded by his teammates for his stellar performance. In an article by News 18, Sanju Samson spoke about Gowtham’s bowling and said, “Gowtham was amazing. It is a life time experience for him and also for us”. It wasn’t just Gowtham’s teammates who were floored by his performance, their opponents had a word or two about the batsman’s run as well. In the same article, MI wicket keeper, Ishan Kishan, spoke about Gowtham’s run and said, “Gowtham really batted well. He waited for the ball before going for his strokes.” RR captain Ajinkya Rahane expressed his feelings in an article by India Today and said, “I still can’t believe what happened. I just want to give credit to my bowlers for the way they came back after 14 overs because it looked like they’d get to 180-190. But in the end KG’s knock was unbelievable. We knew we had hitters like Jos, Ben, Klassen and Jofra who could hit the ball a long way. We knew that we were always just two big shots away. Rahul batted really well at the top of the order last year, and that is the combination we wanted to go in with. It looks like we’ll still continue with that.” It seems that the Royals have found their stride once and it’s safe to say that the team will be looking to continue this momentum as they take on the Sunrisers next and with Krishnappa Gowtham, it seems that Rajasthan has not only found a hero it needs, but also one it deserves.