Match Report – PBKS vs RR 27th Match, April 13, 2024

Rajasthan Royals 152 for 7 (Jaiswal 39, Hetmyer 27*, Rabada 2-18) beat Punjab Kings 147 for 8 (Ashutosh 31, Jitesh 29, Maharaj 2-23) by three wickets

Shimron Hetmyer came in with Rajasthan Royals needing 35 from 20. Perhaps it should never have got this close, given Punjab Kings’ 147 for 8 felt at least ten runs too light on a pitch that had some bounce but no known witchcraft performed upon it. It had also seemed from Royals’ own solid – but not rampant – 56-run opening stand, that they weren’t sweating it.

But then Kagiso Rabada bowled his four overs for 18, and suddenly the back end of this match became tight. Rabada had taken two big wickets as well – of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson – and as such was doing as much as any Kings player to produce a match-winning hand.

The final word, though, went to Hetmyer, who, despite an excellent penultimate over from Sam Curran and a good effort from Arshdeep Singh, won with a six off the penultimate ball. There had been two sixes from Hetmyer in the lead-up to that.

The last over

Curran dismissed Rovman Powell and Keshav Maharaj in the 19th over while conceding ten runs, and Royals needed another ten off the 20th over. Hetmyer was on strike, so it always seemed likely, but then Arshdeep delivered two glorious yorkers first up, which the batter could not make anything of, and the equation came down to ten from four.

The key shot in the final over was Hetmyer’s desperate wallop down the ground off the third ball. Arshdeep had not missed his length by much, but this was not quite in the blockhole. Hetmyer swung hard and managed to bully this ball into the boundary cushion – not over it – behind the bowler.

Only centimetres were in it. Had Arshdeep pitched a fraction fuller, Hetmyer would not have been able to get under it. Had Hetmyer not hit it with slightly fewer newtons of force behind it, the shot would have only brought four, and six would have been required from the last three.

Hetmyer muscled the next ball towards long-on and got two, but the worst ball of Arshdeep’s over was the fifth one, and almost anyone could have hit that for a boundary. This came juicy, knee-high, and on the stumps. Hetmyer shuffled across and thwacked it over deep fine leg, clinching a thriller.

Rabada’s charge

In defence of a modest target, Rabada was intense. He bowled two tight powerplay overs, off which just 12 runs came, and then bowled aggressively through the middle overs, as Kings were looking for wickets. He got Jaiswal with a short wide one the batter toe-edged, then claimed the prized wicket of Royals captain Samson when he jagged one back to hit the batter on the back leg. Rabada conceded only two boundaries, which was also the number of wickets he took.

Kings’ underwhelming innings

Until the last two overs, in which Impact Sub Ashutosh Sharma made the most of a let-off and hit 20 off the last nine balls he faced, Kings never seemed capable of moving into high gear. Every time some semblance of a partnership seemed to be forming, a wicket fell. Often this was because batters fell for cross-bat shots to short balls that got big on them. They were 38 for 1 after the powerplay, 53 for 4 after ten overs, and 86 for 5 after 15.

From that point, Ashutosh, Rabada and, to some extent, Curran did well to make such a tight game out of this.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf

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