IPL 2024: Hetmyer Fires, Royals Stay Firm at the Top Spot

With a blistering strike rate of 270, Shimron Hetmyer took RR home in what seemed to be a faltering chase for them.

Hetmyer Gifts Royals a Win

Rajasthan Royals produced an excellent bowling display but nearly fluffed their lines in a chase of 147 on a slow and two-paced surface at Mullanpur. Eventually what seemed a routine chase came down to the league leaders needing to get 34 off 18. Shimron Hetmyer scored a 10-ball 27* to take the team to their fifth win of IPL 2024 off the penultimate ball. The defeat, the fourth of the Punjab Kings’ season, kept them rooted to the bottom half of the table.

A game with big-name absentees

A-listers from both sides missed out on this contest due to niggles. While PBKS welcomed back Liam Livingstone, they lost their captain Shikhar Dhawan. Atharva Taide took up the vacant opening slot while Sam Curran assumed captaincy. In the pink corner, Jos Buttler and R. Ashwin missed out with Tanush Kotian and Rovman Powell coming in for their IPL debuts. The visitors, however, had the advantage of playing with a target in front of them after Sanju Samson won an important toss.

Punjab’s prolonged powerplay problems

Of the five lowest powerplay scores in IPL 2024, three of them belong to the Punjab Kings, underscoring the big pain point of their season so far. Today, they were further hamstrung by the absence of their leader and opener Shikhar Dhawan. His replacement in the XI, Taide, began promisingly with a pair of sweetly timed boundaries through the covers. But as it turned out, PBKS’ powerplay peaked there. Once Taide fell to Avesh Khan, Jonny Bairstow, and Prabhsimran Singh struggled to get the seamers away and PBKS ended the powerplay at a very modest 38/1.

Maharaj, Chahal apply the chokehold

Spin proved a potent option for Royals’ Sanju Samson in Mullanpur and Yuzvendra Chahal struck in his first over – the first after the powerplay. A familiar, tossed-up delivery from the leggie lured the scratchy Prabhsimran into attempting a big slog across the line. The batter took the bait and his release shot was laden with an extra dose of risk due to it being hit against the wind. Dhruv Jurel settled under the swirled for the first of his three outfield catches.

After Chahal, it was Keshav Maharaj’s turn to strike. He got a delivery to stop and turn on Bairstow in the first over and the Englishman chipped a simple catch to extra cover to fall for 15 off 19. In a miserly spell of bowling, Maharaj also had stand-in skipper Sam Curran mistime a pull to deep mid-wicket and finished with figures of 2 for 23. At the halfway mark of the innings, PBKS were reduced to 53/4 and needed to get Ashutosh Sharma on as an impact substitute to lengthen their batting.

How did PBKS still get to 147?

As ever, the Kings turned to their lower middle order in search of scoreboard respectability. Jitesh Sharma led the revival with an excellent, inside-out six over extra cover off Chahal before a six down the ground off Kuldeep Sen. The returning Liam Livingstone struck a six and a four himself in a 17-run takedown of Sen, but just as the partnership was blossoming than Jitesh fell to Avesh Khan.

After Livingstone was run out courtesy of an improvised flicked throw from Samson, the onus was on Ashutosh to provide the finishing kick. And he managed just that. Two sixes came in the 19th over from Avesh Khan before he added a four in the final over to finish with an impressive 31 off 16.

Contrasting starts for Jaiswal, Kotian

With Buttler absent, the Royals sent out all Mumbai pair of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tanush Kotian to open the chase. The Royals went through the powerplay without losing a wicket for the first time this season, but they managed only a modest 43 runs in this time. Jaiswal was fluent in the 16 balls he faced for his 23 in this period while Kotian made only 18 from the 20 he faced. It took another two overs for him to be put out of his struggles with Livingstone slipping a ball under his legs and cleaning him up for a painstaking 31-ball 24.

Rabada brings the Kings back

The early go-slow didn’t seem to affect the Royals chase as Jaiswal and Sanju Samson continued to keep them ticking, slashing the equation down to a very gettable 66 off 51 before the returning Rabada got Jaiswal to mistime an uppercut to third man.

After getting to 39 off 28, Royals’ prodigious opener couldn’t cash in and it opened a window of opportunity for the hosts. Rabada then sent a pacy delivery onto Samson’s leg and trapped him in front of the stumps. The South African star finished his four overs for figures of 2 for 18 and his final two overs got the visitors to crack under the pressure applied.

The in-form Riyan Parag top-edged a pull off Arshdeep while Sam Curran gave away just six singles in the over prior. It left the Royals needing 34 off 18.

And the pendulum swings again for the Royals…

Curran could have bowled the 18th over himself but threw the ball to Harshal Patel. The Haryana bowler dismissed Dhruv Jurel but ended that over with two soft balls which Hetmyer swung away for a four and a six. Royals’ Rovman Powell then hit Curran for a brace of fours to start the 19th over.

That meant four straight balls had cost 18 runs and even though Curran came back well to dismiss Powell and Maharaj in his last over, Arshdeep was left to defend just 10 off the final over. The left-armer bowled two dots to start but missed his yorker on the third time of trying and conceded a six. Hetmyer helped himself to another six off a full toss to condemn PBKS to another close defeat.

What next for the teams?

Punjab Kings remain at home and will welcome Mumbai Indians on April 18 after a four-day gap. The Royals have a shorter turnaround and will travel east to face KKR on April 16.

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