Ravi Jadeja is the kind of man you can’t keep out of a match for long. He is the most rounded of allround cricketers, combining destructive shotmaking with extraordinary ground-fielding skills and exemplary and often spectacular catching. And then there’s his ability with the ball in hand. It was the last of those skills that was most significant in condemning Rajasthan Royals to a chastening defeat in Mumbai, although he also seemed to be in propitious positions – as he often is – whenever the ball was in the air.
The left-arm spinner, brought on in the eighth over of the Royals reply to Chennai’s 188, had gone for 22 in his first two overs – Jos Buttler reverse sweeping him for consecutive fours in his first and bludgeoning a pull over cow corner for six in his second. But with the first ball of his third, the turn that he had hinted at towards the end of his second, gatecrashed its way past a surprised Buttler’s defensive outside edge to hit his off stump after pitching on middle and leg.
Five balls later he fired in a quick, straight one to trap Shivam Dube lbw and suddenly Rajasthan, facing a rising run rate but certainly in the game with Buttler at the crease and hitters in David Miller and Chris Morris to come, suddenly found themselves well and truly out of it.
Moeen Ali forced his way into the door left ajar by Jadeja, helping himself first to the vital wicket of Miller, and then watching in delight as the left-arm spinner found himself at deep mid-wicket, the perfect place to pouch lofted shots from Riyan Parag and Morris. In that period, between the 12th and the 15th overs, the score slumped from 87 for two, making the rest of the game academic.
Jadeja had even found himself in the right place at the right time during the powerplay, although credit MS Dhoni for that. Maran Vohra had swung Sam Curran for six from a ball that really wasn’t that short and immediately the CSK captain moved Jadeja to deep midwicket. Vohra was dim enough to try the shot again next ball and, unsurprisingly, departed.
Chennai had been put into bat and there were worthy contributions from the top five, including 33 from 17 balls for opener Faf du Plessis, but it was the final three overs that left Rajasthan facing a much bigger total than they would have hoped for and envisaged. And while conventional wisdom suggests that taking wickets reduces the run rate, it wasn’t quite so on this occasion as they hit 45 – coincidentally what proved to be the margin of victory – while losing four wickets.
Sam Curran, who would later bowl to excellent effect in the powerplay, slapped 13 off six balls, one an almost unimaginable cut high over the cover boundary from a shorter, slower one from Chetan Sakariya, while Dwayne Bravo was hard on Morris and Mustafizur, smashing 20 from eight deliveries including a six over long-on from the last ball of the innings.
Sakariya’s figures were slightly soiled by the final over, but he provided more evidence of his raw potential by taking three for 36 in all, one of them Dhoni.
Moeen’s figures of three for seven most caught the eye, and earned him the man of the match award, but make no mistake it was Jadeja, with two for 28 and four catches – the last taken off Jaydev Unadkat, this time sweeping at cover.