IPL 2022: A Buttler hundred, a Chahal hat-trick, a T20 thriller, a Rajasthan win

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Rajasthan Royals edged a thriller by seven runs to hand Kolkata Knight Riders their third successive loss at the Brabourne Stadium. Jos Buttler’s second century of the season launched RR to 217, but despite Yuzvendra Chahal’s game-changing hat-trick, KKR were in with a chance before they were dismissed in the last over.

Buttler belts ton No 2

What does Buttler bring to T20? The ability to whack any length out of the park. But equally important, also an almost uncanny awareness of the field and the ability to exploit any opening he can find. . There was a 13-metre difference in the boundaries on both sides of the wicket at the Cricket Club of India on Monday night. Now all batsmen look to target the shorter side and bowlers try to prevent that.
But Buttler’s game sense is something else. He’d already carved Umesh Yadav for two boundaries in the third over when he squeezed him square to the longer side. It would have been a certain four had Venkatesh Iyer not given chase and pulled it back a couple of inches inside with a big slide. Batsmen are nearly always content with the third run in such cases, and on shorter outfields, even the third is a stretch. But Buttler had already completed the third by the time another fielder picked up the ball, and he glimpsed a window for the fourth. He rushed back and was prepared to put in the dive, which saw him safely in.

The rest of the innings was a blur of boundaries, as was the entire match for that matter. Again, it was interesting to see how Buttler operates. Pat Cummins attempted a yorker around off; it didn’t quite land in the blockhole but wasn’t far. But Buttler has hardly any across shuffle, it is more of a coiling setup where he bears down harder into the ground. That allowed him to stay inside the line and shovel the ball back over Cummins to the straight boundary. An across step would have likely cramped him for that particular line. In any case, he is adept at clearing the front leg to create some room if it comes to that.

Buttler does move around when he has to, as he did when he was aiming to swing to the shorter leg-side rope. In his first century of the season against Mumbai Indians, he’d slowed down considerably at the end; he didn’t let that happen on Monday in a 59-ball ton.

A fortnight ago, Lucknow Super Giants had chased down 211 against Chennai Super Kings at the same ground with three balls and six wickets to spare. And a week ago, also at the same ground, KKR had been dismissed for 171 chasing Delhi Capitals’ 216, albeit in an afternoon start.

Finch, Shreyas respond in kind

The fresh opening combination of Sunil Narine and Aaron Finch failed first ball as the former was run out, but it was all KKR thereafter for a while. Finch was jittery initially, walking down the pitch and getting beaten. He soon settled in to play some incredible shots, pummelling it through the line. He backed away to R Ashwin, to a ball that was neither short nor full. If he was done in the air, it didn’t show, for he just went through with his shot and the ball landed beyond long-off. Eleven of the 28 balls he faced were hit for boundaries. He was gone by the ninth over, but KKR had gone past 100 too.

Skipper Shreyas’ strength lies square of the wicket on the off and he made sure he played to it. He went back in the crease to guide the ball between short third man and backward point. He moved to the leg side and upper-cut for six when the shorter off-side boundary was in play. He reverse-swept Ashwin flat over the third-man rope, and also stepped out to lift him over midwicket. All along, he kept working the ball around the outfield, more so on the leg side. It was highly effective, calculated chasing, and seemed set to take KKR home, but Yuzvendra Chahal was not done yet.

Chahal tricks KKR

At 178 for 4 after 16, it was KKR’s game to lose. Chahal made that a reality. Within four balls, he had the two Iyers, Venkatesh and Shreyas, stumped and leg-before. He spun a wrong ‘un past an advancing Venkatesh, and after bowling wide to Shreyas, slid it in full and quicker into the KKR captain, completely cramping him. Shivam Mavi and Pat Cummins followed off the last two balls of the over, giving Chahal a hat-trick as well as a five-for.

Umesh Yadav had RR worried with an assault on Trent Boult in the 18th, but Prasidh Krishna and Obed McCoy would keep KKR seven runs short.

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