With Rajasthan Royals not having enough total to defend, the only way they could win was to take wickets at regular intervals. After Prasidh Krishna provided the first strike for RR, removing the woefully out-of-form Virat Kohli in his first over, and the second of the innings, 25-year-old right-arm medium-pacer Kuldeep Sen provided the most crucial blows for RR.
His four for 20 in 3.3 overs, the best figures in his three IPL matches so far, including the wickets of RCB captain Faf du Plessis and the dangerous Glenn Maxwell off successive deliveries in his first over, proved to be the turning point in RR’s 29-run win after their batsmen posted 144 for eight.
With not much experience of playing at this level, Sen has only learnt and got better by playing more and more. In his first match, he went for 35 and took the wicket of Deepak Hooda of Lucknow Super Giants. In his second match, he gave away 51 and removed Vijay Shankar of Gujarat Titans. After missing a couple of matches in between, Sen, on Tuesday in Pune, came in to bowl for the first time after the Power Play overs were completed in which RCB managed only 37 for the loss of Kohli.
RCB’s consistent scorer this season has been their captain du Plessis. The South African has led from the front, scoring runs while the others including Kohli have not been up to it. On Tuesday, du Plessis was settling down to play a long innings, his drive through cover and extra cover for fours besides a fluent six off Ravichandran Ashwin over long off were indications enough for RCB to cross the line. Luck was also on the RCB skipper’s side when in the same over in which he hit Ashwin for a six, he was dropped by the bowler on 23, though the chance was tough and the ball was hit hard for Ashwin to even attempt it one-handed.
However, du Plessis’s luck was short-lived as in the seventh over of the RCB innings, the tall Sen bowled a length delivery outside the off-stump that the batsman drove to cover. Du Plessis could not clear the fielder and Jos Buttler positioned there took a simple catch. With du Plessis gone for 23, in walked the Australian big-hitter Glenn Maxwell.
However, with a smart field placement by captain Sanju Samson, he kept Devdutt Padikkal at slip, the position would normally have been a second slip in the traditional format of the game. However, Maxwell hit straight to Padikkal the first ball he faced to leave Sen a hat-trick, which was denied by Shahbaz Ahmed.
The RCB line-up was under pressure with their two key batsmen back and the inexperienced Rajat Patidar, Shahbaz Ahmed and Suyash Prabhudessai could do precious little even though there was Dinesh Karthik to work some magic. But, that was not to be on the day as wickets fell in a hurry and Sen came back for his second spell in the 17th over and immediately removed Wanindu Hasaranga caught and bowled, and drove the final nail in the coffin when he had RCB’s last wicket, Md Siraj, caught in the deep for his career best T20 bowling figures.