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Rajasthan Royals defeat Punjab Kings by three wickets

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Mullanpur, April 13: Rajasthan Royals defeated Punjab Kings by three wickets in their IPL match here on Saturday.
Asked to bat first, Punjab Kings, who played without their injured skipper Shikhar Dhawan, didn’t get any momentum in their innings with lower-order batter Ashutosh Sharma (31), Jitesh Sharma (29) and Liam Livingstone (21) managing to take the team close to the 150-mark.
In reply, RR huffed and puffed their way to the victory target of 148 with a ball to spare, thanks to Shimron Hetmyer’s 10-ball 27 after Yashasvi Jaiswal (39), Tanush Kotian (24), Riyan Parag (23) frittered away starts.
Kagiso Rabada (2/18) was the best bowler for Punjab with his two wickets.
For RR, Keshav Maharaj (2/23) and Avesh Khan (2/34) picked up two wickets each, while Trent Boult (1/22), Kuldeep Sen (1/35) and Yuzvendra Chahal (1/31) bagged one each.
Earlier, Royals bowlers under Avesh Khan and Keshav Maharaj exploited a sticky pitch to the hilt to restrict Punjab Kings to an underwhelming 147 for eight in their IPL match here on Saturday.
Pacer Avesh (2/34) and left-arm spinner Maharaj (2/23) did not allow any breathing space to Kings’ batters after Rajasthan skipper Sanju Samson opted to field first.
Ashutosh Sharma (31, 16b), Jitesh Sharma (29, 24b) and Liam Livingstone (21, 14b) tried to force the pace but Punjab needed more than those pretty little cameos.
But the Kings had a rather quick start to their innings with 26 runs coming in the first three overs as Atharva Taide, who came in for injured skipper Shikhar Dhawan, hammered a couple of fours off pacer Kuldeep Sen.
However, the brakes were soon applied as Taide’s mistimed pull off pacer Avesh Khan ended in the hands of Sen inside the circle.
Thereafter the Punjab batters struggled to muster any sort of momentum on a pitch that gripped a bit, especially for left-arm spinner Maharaj and leg-spinner Chahal.
However, a slice of credit should also go to veteran pacer Trent Boult who conceded just 15 runs in his three power play overs, a stage when the pitch was still fine for batting.
The last three power play overs could only fetch 10 runs for Kings as they ended that passage with a modest 38 for one.In the next five overs, the hosts struggled to hit even one boundary as they laboured to 53 for four in 10 overs, losing Jonny Bairstow, stand-in-skipper Sam Curran and Prabhsimran Singh, all consumed by the combination of a slow deck and accurate spinners.
Curran’s dismissal was the most telltale example of that.The left-hander failed to impart power or timing to his pull off Maharaj as the ball got even slower after pitching. Dhruv Jurel latched on to a tumbling catch while running in from deep mid-wicket.
Their biggest hope on the day could have been the range-hitting ability of in-form Shahshank Singh but a feeble pull off Sen could not progress beyond Jurel at mid-wicket.With the cream of top-order back in the hut without any significant contribution, the PBKS required some hefty hand from Livingstone and Jitesh to get to even a par score.
Sharma showed some intent too, clobbering Chahal for a gorgeously timed six over extra over, and later sent Sen for a six to the straight fence before getting out to Avesh.
Livingstone, who creamed Sen for a six and four off successive balls through mid-wicket, and Ashutosh, who smoked Avesh for two sixes in the 19th over, helped PBKS add 61 runs in the last five overs, but their effort came a wee bit late. Rajasthan Royals’ bowlers, spearheaded by Avesh Khan and Keshav Maharaj, showcased their prowess on a challenging pitch, restricting Punjab Kings to a modest total of 147 for eight in their IPL encounter in Mullanpur. (PTI)

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