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Cricket news - Unadkat and Miller emerge as sparks of fortuity for RR

Unadkat ended the night with 3-15 and Miller with a 62 off 43 balls

Unadkat ended the night with 3-15 and Miller with a 62 off 43 balls

He had a grin on his face like a Cheshire Cat. It was one of those days where he did little wrong; three wickets in the powerplay and a crucial six in the end. It's highly likely Jaydev Unadkat couldn't wipe that smile off all night after Rajasthan Royals pipped the mighty Delhi Capitals by three wickets at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday (April 16).

RR had a long on in place for Prithvi Shaw in the second over, who had belted Chennai Super Kings' bowlers in their last game all over the park. Having watched the game closely where Shaw hit down the ground quite a bit, and also bearing in mind Shaw's propensity to fall to left-handers, RR took a cue. With three left-arm pacers as in their XI, it was Unadkat who foxed Shaw with his trademark cutter.

Unadkat was mixing it up and another slower ball in his next over had Shikhar Dhawan. Sanju Samson persisted with Unadkat for another over in the powerplay given his run and was rewarded with the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane. The experienced batsman was deceived by another slow ball, as slow as 109 kmph, as Unadkat ended his first spell on 3-12, putting RR on top in the contest.

"A homecoming", is how Unadkat described his day. It was a long time coming even, who has had his fair share of struggles in the Indian Premier League. After an impressive 2017, he was bogged down by the sheer weight of expectations that accompanied a heavy price tag leading to disappointing deliverance. He failed to nail a permanent spot in the Royals' XI despite being their most experienced Indian bowler. So much so, in the tournament opener against Punjab Kings too, he wasn't even part of their plans as Chetan Sakariya was preferred as the first-choice pacer making the XI instead. But once the opportunity came knocking, he bowled with the "kind of freedom" he wanted to with the new ball - something that he couldn't do last season, where he played just seven games, picked four wickets and worse, conceded 9.91 runs an over.

It was a different wicket that RR played on today than the one they had played their season opener. It was a fresh wicket that had a little more moisture at the start which the RR pacers made the most of hitting hard lengths and mixing up with the variations.

"It was just about four or five slow balls that I bowled in the powerplay," said Unadkat after the game. "It seemed more because I got wickets on those balls. More than that, I think it was seaming a little I can say that because there was a little moisture in the wicket to start with. That's why the good length deliveries were flying all over the pitch and were hard to hit early on."

DC played an extra bowler on the evening slotting in Kagiso Rabada for Shimron Hetmyer. And in what is otherwise an explosive line-up, not one six was hit in the entire innings as they tottered to 147. If they had to take a cue from RR's bowlers and resort to the slower balls, they weren't stopping as they had in the first innings with dew coming into the picture in the second. They stuck to their strengths, however, and reduced RR to 42 for 5 with their star batsmen back in the shed within four overs.

It was the perfect opportunity for David Miller, who spent the most time on the bench last season, to step up. He got just one game in 2020 where he was run out without even facing a ball. Miller had a good season with Punjab in 2019 before he was released and bought by RR in 2020. However, it's likely he wouldn't have gotten a game again this season had it not been for Ben Stokes being ruled out of the season with a broken finger.

Finding himself in the middle earlier than he would've expected in the fourth over, he took his time to settle in. He rotated the strike initially and stitched partnerships with the middle order to keep RR in the game. Anything short, he pounced on and dispatched to the boundary, holding his end quite adeptly, to take the game deep. It wasn't until the 13th over when Marcus Stoinis was introduced that Miller let loose. He smacked him for a hat-trick of fours to reduce the deficit. The first six of the match came only in the 16th over of the innings when he dispatched Avesh Khan behind square. The next ball was over square leg for successive sixes after 35 overs without a single one. Miller then miscued one to fall after reaching his 10th IPL fifty.

Although the job was not fully done, Chris Morris justified his steep price tag with a brilliant 18-ball 36 that sealed the game and gave RR their first points. Against a formidable team like DC, for RR to have pulled off a win will and to have done so from a tacky situation will do them a world of good. That, without their mainstay pacer in Jofra Archer.

Unadkat ended the night with 3-15 and Miller with a 62 off 43 balls. They didn't make the XI for the first game for different reasons, but when the chance came, they took them and came out with flying colours. Despite having huge boots to fill in the larger scheme of things for RR, these little sparks of fortuity will give them the confidence they need.

Maybe the time has come for them to fit into bigger shoes this time, and as better versions of themselves.