Steve Smith's Rajasthan kept their playoff hopes alive on Friday by beating Punjab by seven wickets. Winning the toss, Rajasthan put Punjab to bat, and at one point, it seemed like the decision had backfired as Chris Gayle smashed their bowlers across every area of the park before missing out on his century by just a single run. Riding on his back, Punjab posted 185/4 in 20 overs.
Rajasthan needed a quick headstart and Ben Stokes delivered what was promised as Rajasthan scored 66/1 in the powerplay overs (third-best powerplay score of this year's Indian T20 League). The likes of Sanju Samson and Robin Uthappa steadied the ship after Stokes before Smith and Jos Buttler wreaked havoc to run away with all two points.
That said, here are some key talking points from the game:
Archer and Mandeep’s antithetical figures
Mandeep Singh played an electrifying 100-run partnership with Chris Gayle in Punjab’s eight-wicket victory over Kolkata on Monday, and for the third consecutive time this season, opened the batting alongside KL Rahul against Rajasthan tonight. Contrary to what was expected, the 28-year-old was dismissed for a duck by Jofra Archer, and in the process, got himself in the list of players with most ducks in the Indian T20 League. It was, in fact, his fifth golden duck in the league, second of the ongoing season, and 12th overall, which is the joint-second-highest in the history of the league.
|Most ducks in Indian T20 League|
Archer, on his part, was once again his team’s most economical bowler, conceding 26 runs for two wickets in his quota of four overs. Dismissing Mandeep Singh means 11 of his 19 wickets this Indian T20 League season have been openers. Here’s the detailed bifurcation:
|Archer's wicket in 2020 Indian T20 League
|Batting position #||WICKETS|
Chris Gayle inspires Punjab - AGAIN!
Punjab's struggle of squeezing out runs from their middle-order batsmen was quite evident earlier in the campaign when they lost six of their opening eight games of the season. Chris Gayle's introduction in their eight-wicket win over Bangalore, however, has turned their fortune upside down. Not in a single innings so far has the hard-hitting West Indian scored less than 20 runs. As a result, the team has gone on a five-game unbeaten run. Despite being just six games old, Gayle has already been a part of two of his side's four 100-run partnerships this season. Gayle has now become the first player to hit more than 1000 sixes in T20 cricket. His tally of eight sixes on the night took his figures to 1001 sixes in the format. And he is significantly ahead in the list of players with most sixes in T20s.
|Most sixes in T20s|
He might have missed out on a century on Friday, but he duly conveyed what he brings despite being the oldest man in the league. Hitting at a strike rate of 157.14, the 41-year-old scored a majority of his runs at mid-wicket (34), long-on (24) and long-off (14). Before Gayle, Punjab had used five different players in the No. 3 position, but these men gathered a mere 85 runs in seven innings. The southpaw, however, has scored 276 runs in just six innings at an average of 46.00 and a strike rate of 144.50; a significant headway to what was being delivered before.
Captain Smith delivered when it mattered
Steve Smith's crack-handed return in this year's Indian T20 League has been one of the key talking points. The skipper has registered five single-digit scores this season and managed to get past the 30-run mark on a mere three occasions. On Friday though, the Aussie got into the groove and delivered when his team needed him the most. After losing Sanju Samson in the 15th over, Rajasthan needed 40 runs from 30 deliveries. The momentum was slowly moving towards Punjab, but all that changed in the 17th over when Smith and Buttler combined to hit Mohammad Shami for 19 runs, While the Englishman scored 22 off 11, Smith ended his innings with a 20-ball 31, which included five boundaries.
Smith might have silenced his critics for the time being by keeping alive Rajasthan's hope of qualifying for the playoffs. Rajasthan are a chasing unit and Smith certainly knows that, as five of their six victories this season have come while chasing.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndianT20League