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Another Buttler century, Prasidh three-for clinch run-fest against Capitals

Rajasthan Royals 222 for 2 (Buttler 116, Padikkal 54, Samson 46*) beat Delhi Capitals 207 for 8 (Pant 44, Prasidh 3-22) by 15 runs

The end was chaotic with Delhi Capitals threatening to call their players back and sending an assistant coach on to the field to get a call overturned, but the serenity of yet another Jos Buttler hundred trumped all else in the final equation.

Buttler began looking unable to get bat on ball. His first 11 runs took 14 balls, eight of them off edges. By the time he was done, though, the opposition captain Rishabh Pant didn’t look happy with his bowlers, the bowlers didn’t look happy with the fielders, and the fielders looked sick of the leather hunt. Buttler ended with 116 in 65 balls, hitting nine sixes, one of them 107metres long.

Rajasthan Royals lost their sixth toss in seven matches, the joint-worst luck at the toss, but that was the last thing they lost as Buttler’s third century of the season set them up for the highest score of this IPL, 222, which they defended eventually comfortably.

It came down to 36 required off the final over, and Rovman Powell hit the first three for sixes. The third of those was a high full toss. The batter and the Capitals dugout immediately remonstrated to get a no-ball call, but it wasn’t called on the field. Then the dugout stopped play, insisting on the third umpire’s intervention, but the playing conditions allow the third umpire to come in only if it is a foot-fault no-ball or if there has been a dismissal off the ball. Obed McCoy made a comeback after the break to bowl a dot and get Powell off the last ball.

A circumspect start
You wouldn’t have guessed from the start what carnage we were about to witness. Khaleel Ahmed troubled him with his left-arm angle and also some seam movement, and Buttler edged away two boundaries in the first over. Shardul Thakur followed it with a maiden, and Lalit Yadav snuck in a boundary-less over of part-time offspin.

A massive shift in momentum
So far Devdutt Padikkal has been an innocent bystander as Buttler has carried on hitting hundreds, but in this game Padikkal took the pressure off Buttler by hitting three fours in Mustafizur Rahman’s first over. Buttler followed it up with two sixes off Khaleel in the sixth, turning it into an acceptable powerplay of 44 for 0.

Royals have been the best batters of spin this IPL, comfortably averaging the highest and scoring the fastest against them. Capitals’ spinners have been among the best. But both Buttler and Padikkal went after Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav, taking 12 and 15 from the eighth and the ninth overs.

Pant felt forced to go back to Lalit to give him a cushion for an expensive frontline bowler, but Buttler tucked into his non-turning offbreaks, taking 35 off his two overs. Buttler enjoyed great support from Padikkal, who offered a majority of the strike to Buttler despite going faster at the start of the innings and scoring a 35-ball 54 himself. Padikkal’s dismissal in the 16th over brought out a bigger headache for Capitals: Sanju Samson, who just went after everything in his 19-ball 46.

Buttler’s pristine hitting continued, making his grip on the orange cap formidable. In fact he has scored more in boundaries than the second-highest run-scorer in the competition.

Shaw, Warner get a quick start
If there is an opening pair that can scare you in a defence of 222, it is David Warner and Prithvi Shaw. Shaw began with two fours first two balls, Warner went to 28 off 13, and if the dew had materialised, the chase was on. Prasidh Krishna, though, cramped Warner up and drew the edge to slow Capitals down.

Spinners control middle overs
R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal once again controlled the middle overs. Ashwin had Sarfaraz Khan in the sixth over, Chahal backed it up with tight overs, and Ashwin then got Shaw caught at deep cover. When Prasidh came back to get Pant, bowling hard lengths again, to make it 124 for 4 in the 12th over, it seemed game over.

Powell turns it around
It was in the 18th over that Powell struck fear. They needed 51 to win off 18, and Powell hit two sixes right at the end of the over to make it 36 off the last two. Prasidh came back to seemingly kill the game with a wicket-maiden, bowling around the wicket with a strong cover field on the fence and hiding the ball wide.

However, the last over was to be bowled by McCoy who had had an ordinary night, conceding 26 off the ninth over. And when Powell began to send them into the night sky, the nerves were palpable. Conferences became longer, the pauses between deliveries too. The one between third and fourth was the longest because Capitals wanted a decision reversed, which was not possible under the playing conditions.

A slower short ball after the layoff brought the dot, and that was the game.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo


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