Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Giving victory a slip - A familiar tale for PBKS. Not for the first time, KL Rahul and Anil Kumble were left dejected in the end despite watching their side remain in control for the major part of the contest.
Not for the first time, KL Rahul and Anil Kumble were left dejected in the end despite watching their side remain in control for the major part of the contest.
“It's a tough one to swallow,” a dejected KL Rahul said after Punjab Kings made a mess of what was looking like an imminent victory for them against Rajasthan Royals in Dubai. Needing eight to win off the last 12 deliveries in a 186-run chase that was set up by a century opening stand between Rahul and Mayank Agarwal and was followed by a half-century association between Nicholas Pooran and Aiden Markram, the Kings ended up losing by two runs after Kartik Tyagi bowled an excellent final over, conceding just a single and bagging two wickets. And this wasn't the first time that the Kings lost a game that they took down to the wire before shooting themselves on the foot.
At around the halfway stage of the IPL last year, the Kings were in pursuit of 165 against Kolkata Knight Riders and were rather cruising towards victory on the back of another 100-plus stand involving Rahul and Agarwal. But they choked in the end and suffered a two-run loss on that occasion too. The loss in Abu Dhabi in 2020 was sandwiched between two tight finishes in Dubai. The first was their opening game against Delhi Capitals when they were forced into the Super Over in a chase of 157, and eventually lost. Against Mumbai Indians, in a 176-run chase, they took the game again to the Super Over, tied that too before emerging victorious.
Punjab's tryst with close finishes isn't just limited to these three games. In fact, in this IPL cycle (2018-2021), they have been part of 11 matches that were decided only after the penultimate ball has been bowled, if not the final one or beyond that. They have won six of those – three times defending and thrice chasing, while four of the five losses have come in pursuit of targets.
This underlines a clear problem of getting over the line, one that Rahul too acknowledged. “We have been a team that has experienced games like these before. We need to see how we can handle pressure better.” Meanwhile, head coach Anil Kumble was visibly frustrated and annoyed over his team's inability to close out games much earlier, like in this instance which has left them at an uncomfortable seventh position with only six points from nine matches.
“It's sort of become a pattern for us especially when we get to Dubai, it seems,” Kumble said at the press conference after the game. “The approach was clear, we needed to finish it in 19 overs. That was the approach, to not let it go till the end. But unfortunately, when you leave it to the last couple of balls, it becomes a lottery. Credit to Tyagi for the way he bowled. It was pretty clear he was going to bowl wide outside off, and somehow our batters didn't take the right options,” he said. “We need to discuss this and sort it out. We have five more games to go, we don't want to get bogged down by this defeat but it's certainly a bitter pill to swallow.”
A fine death bowling effort – engineered by Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami – meant that the Royals could only manage 21 runs in the last four overs while losing six wickets. Rahul and Agarwal raised their fifth 100-run partnership – fourth for the opening wicket – but little would they know that it also would become the fourth such effort in a losing cause. The Kings even overcame their middle order issues that has plagued them in this cycle, through Markram and Pooran's fifty-plus stand.
The equation for the Kings was 18 off the last four overs, which was brought down to 12 off 23 deliveries when Markram struck a six off Chris Morris on the first ball of the 18th over. But they failed to find the boundary after that, with only eight singles and three dots coming off the 11 balls bowled by Morris and Mustafizur Rahman.
“On a ground where one side of the boundary is short, at one stage Royals looked good to score 200-210. So to really squeeze them in the last four, I thought the bowling effort was really good. With the bat also, we showed it till the 17th over. We were cruising but we were pulled back in the 18th and 19th overs after [Aiden] Markram's six. As batters, they know what their scoring shots are. All it needed was a bit of hitting. Even if someone got out first ball, the next batter had five balls to get the runs. When it goes to the last couple of balls, it becomes hard. The messaging was clear. We had to finish it in 19 overs, unfortunately that didn't happen today.”
Before the final over started, Kumble was seen smiling in the dugout, while the tension was palpable in the Royals camp. While Markram wasn't able to put a full toss away off the first delivery and took a single of the next, Rahul's face remained stoic. There was disappointment and Rahul just brushed his neck when Pooran fell trying to guide the ball to the third-man region. Deepak Hooda moved across and missed a wide delivery, with the umpire pointing to his shuffle as the reason for not signalling a wide. The cameras immediately turned to Rahul again.
When Hooda was dismissed going after what would have been a wide delivery, Rahul looked up in disbelief while Kumble covered his face. The cameras didn't even focus at the Kings' camp – probably aware of their emotions – after Fabian Allen missed the last-ball yorker, as they shifted to cover the jubilant scenes in the Royals camp.
It's that time of an IPL season again where the clock is ticking and the Kings can ill-afford ruing narrow losses and leave it to the lottery.