Chasing 183, Rajasthan were 89 for 1 in 10 overs. Any team would fancy their chances from that situation, especially on a ground that's known for easy chasing. In four matches prior to this one in Mohali, the chasing team had won three. It should have been four out of four, if not for that 'Delhi Capitals' collapse.
Rajasthan fell 12 short thanks to multiple slow knocks. It started with Rahul Tripathi, opening in this game, making 50 off 45. Sanju Samson made 27 off 21, while Ajinkya Rahane made one run fewer in the same number of balls.
By the time the first 'big hitter' in the middle order could come in, the game had slipped away; Rajasthan needed 56 in 24 when Ashton Turner walked in.
Rajasthan gave Tripathi a promotion to the top for this game. It was a good move on paper, considering Tripathi's strike-rate is above 140 in that position.
However, it meant they would have an even slower batsman - Rahane himself - in the middle order. Rahane explained that Tripathi's 'struggles' in the middle order made them change the combination, but the timing is hard to understand given Rahane himself had - after a while - made a useful 37 off 21 opening the batting in the chase against Mumbai Indians in the previous match.
Tripathi started well too, scoring 31 off his first 21 balls. Along with Buttler, he gave Rajasthan a quick start, scoring 54 in the Power Play. The chances only got brighter mid-way, but Rajasthan just didn't have the power to carry on.
At a time when he should have been accelerating, Tripathi scored only 19 runs in his last 24 balls. Samson hit a couple of boundaries off Mohammed Shami, but there was nothing much else from him either.
When Samson fell in the 12th over, Rajasthan needed 85 off 50 balls, with Tripathi on 39 off 32 and slowing down gradually. They had the option of sending in Turner, but they stuck with Rahane, who too couldn't get going.
By the time Turner got in, things were out of control. A promotion to Jofra Archer didn't work either. That Rajasthan even got close was down to Stuart Binny's unbeaten 11-ball 33.
Punjab too had a batsman scoring a slow half-century, but their case was slightly different. KL Rahul made 52 off 47, but the difference was that he was the only slow batsman in the side.
In some ways, that's the role Rahul has taken up, or been assigned, this year. Last season, his strike-rate was close to 160. This year, he is the sheet anchor, striking at around 120.
Rahul scored only nine runs in Punjab's first nine overs. He was 8 off 17 at one point and 25 off 32 in another.
Importantly, though, Punjab had other batsmen hitting big and batting around Rahul.
Chris Gayle made 30 off 22, and his dismissal was followed by Mayank Agarwal slamming 26 off 12. After he left, David Miller walked in to score 40 off 27.
Rahul was slow, but he could afford to be. Unlike Rahane and Tripathi, Rahul caught up too, ending on a much different note than he began.
In some ways, it's also important that Rahul plays through for Punjab. Lack of all-rounders mean they go in with only five bowlers, and R Ashwin walking in at No. 7 with the bat. Rahul's early exit would cost Punjab too, like was the case in the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Even with Gayle scoring an unbeaten 99 in that match, they couldn't post a winning score.
Rahul's knock was also different from the other slow ones from the Rajasthan side as it's becoming increasingly difficult to set targets. Only 12 times in 34 matches this IPL, have teams batting first won.
That should ideally mean the batsmen should look for quicker knocks in the first innings, but it's hard for teams without the batting depth. Rahul's unbeaten 100 off 64 against Mumbai, and Gayle's unbeaten 99 against RCB, ended in losing causes.
This one too could have ended on a similar note, but the opposition had too many batsmen playing such slow knocks.
First Published: April 17, 2019, 9:35 AM IST