At 96/1 after 10 overs in pursuit of 185, Rajasthan Royals looked like they were steering towards their sixth straight victory against Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. However, the VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL) can surprise even the wisest of cricket buffs and experts! Jos Buttler was getting into devastating groove as he played an array of hits comprising of drives, pulls, lofted shots and two audacious scoops as he toyed with the KXIP bowling attack. An unfortunate Mankading dismissal by Ravichandran Ashwin brought Jos Buttler’s time at the crease to an end. The new batsmen, who joined the fold, found little comfort on the two-paced wicket and a landslide fall of wickets soon followed. The dismissals came in quick succession as the Royals fell short of the target by 15 runs in their season opener.

The Royals came into this game with an unquestionable, unbeaten home record against Kings XI Punjab. However, KXIP were a different looking side with several new faces now in the mix, and were eager to turn this poor record around against the Royals at the SMS stadium. With pitch surveys revealing a two-paced wicket, it was no surprise that Royals’ skipper; Ajinkya Rahane decided to bowl first on winning the toss.

The game started rather cagey, as the Royals grabbed the quick wicket of Lokesh Rahul who was dismissed by Dhawal Kulkarni for 4 runs with just 4 balls bowled in the game. Jos Buttler dived low to his right, and got his gloves right under the ball to give us the maiden wicket of Vivo IPL 2019. At the other end, Chris Gayle was kept quiet at the start with some highly efficient bowling spells from Dhawal Kulkarni and Jofra Archer, both of who maintained a tight line and length, not allowing Gayle to find any real rhythm. Gayle soon unleashed and began looking dangerous, hitting eight boundaries and four 6s, racking up 79 runs off 46 balls. The tide soon turned as Gayle was dismissed by a Ben Stokes bouncer through a spectacular catch by Rahul Tripathi, who plucked the ball out of thin air, right at the edge of the ropes. This was a much required wicket for the Royals and KXIP were dealt a blow with the Gayle dismissal!

The Royals bagged their next wicket by dismissing the dangerous Nicholas Pooran, who made 12 off 14 balls with the resourceful Ben Stokes responsible for this dismissal, as Pooran was caught out at long off by Ajinkya Rahane, who recorded his 50th catch in the VIVO IPL.

With a 29-ball 46, Sarfaraz Khan ensured that KXIP put up a competitive total of 184 on the board.

With a target of 185 runs to chase, the Royals started the chase in fine fashion, with both Ajinkya Rahane and Buttler racing away with 67 runs in the Powerplay overs. Buttler was ripping into the bowling opposition as he nonchalantly played two trademark signature scoops in addition to several drives and pull shots, with 10 boundaries and 2 sixes coming from his bat alone! Rahane also looked on song, as he hit some lovely boundaries with finesse and composure in the opening over. Rahane also reached the 100-boundaries mark at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium with his fourth boundary. Unfortunately, this partnership was broken as Rahane was dismissed for 27 off 22 balls, as he got bowled off an Ashwin carrom ball.

A Mankading dismissal by KXIP skipper, Ravichandran Ashwin, led to Buttler's departure from the crease in the 13th over of the chase. Sanju Samson and Steven Smith tried to steady the ship and preserve wickets for the final burst towards the end, but it all began to spiral downwards when both of them fell in the same over off Sam Curran's bowling. Smith was dismissed by a great catch taken by KL Rahul that truly proved to be the turning point of the game.

Wickets fell in quick frequency from thereon as the target began looking too distant in sight. Eventually, Rajasthan Royals fell short of the target by 15 runs and lost the match.

We have several positives to take from our performance in our opening game! Our bowlers dealt with the pressure well and the top order looked sharp with their approach. Sometimes things can work against you in cricket, but we go right back to the drawing board and travel to Hyderabad for the second game of our Vivo IPL 2019 campaign. The team will remain focused and will look to respond in the next game by taking this loss in their stride! We play Sunrisers Hyderabad next on Friday, 29th March at 8 PM. Halla Bol!

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