It is not easy to perform in crunch situations, especially when the top-order has fallen cheaply. Especially when the scorer of three hundreds, Jos Buttler, has fallen for single digit for the first time in the tournament.
More so if the previous outings in the tournament have not fetched enough runs. Like in the case of Riyan Parag, Rajasthan Royal’s middle-order batsman, whose scores in his earlier five visits to the crease were 12, 5, 8, 18 and 5.
On Tuesday in Pune, the 20-year-old right-handed batsman from Guwahati notched up his highest IPL score – 56 not out in 30 balls with three fours and four sixes – to take RR from a dicey 68 for four to a match-winning total of 144 for eight.
Parag made his intentions clear that he was not going to let go loose deliveries unpunished. Though he did not take risks, he played his strokes with confidence and cleared the boundaries with ease. For his first attacking shots, Parag slammed left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed for a six over long-on and followed it with a four straight above the bowler’s head.
The middle overs were quiet with Parag rotating the strike in the company of New Zealander Daryl Mitchell, the two sharing 31 for the fifth wicket in 4.5 overs. However, the need to accelerate saw Parag hit a beautiful six off RCB’s best bowler on the day, Josh Hazlewood, over covers in the 19th over. Hazlewood nearly had his man when Parag’s intended pull was dropped by Wanindu Hasaranga when he was on 32.
The miss proved costly as Parag took almost the entire strike from there on, even refusing a couple of singles, especially off the last over sent by medium-pacer Harshal Patel.
Assuming the responsibility of scoring and having confidence in his six-hitting abilities, Parag, the member of the 2018 India under-19 World Cup winning team, scored 18 runs off the final over including a one-bounce four to mid-wicket off the second delivery, a six over long-off off the fourth and another one over mid-wicket to finish the innings in style, the penultimate six taking him to his second career IPL fifty, though coming after nearly three years and 30 matches after his first – 50 against Delhi Capitals.
Parag not only contributed usefully with the bat but also did well in the outfield, picking up three catches in the deep to add to a smart diving catch at point to dismiss Virat Kohli in the second over of the innings.
Parag has justified the faith that RR have had in him over the years, having first given him a chance in 2019 and continued with him over the years. His latest knock, which won him the man of the match award, will only boost his morale to perform well. And that can only be good news for RR as they are a strong contender for the final.