Royal turnaround: Ashwin spins the tide in favour of Rajasthan

Veteran spinner delivers a miserly spell with two wickets as RR register four-wicket win
The Rajasthan Royals batsmen celebrate the victory (Photo | IPL)
The Rajasthan Royals batsmen celebrate the victory (Photo | IPL)

AHMEDABAD: After claiming a solitary wicket against Lucknow Super Giants in Rajasthan Royals' opening match at the ongoing IPL, ace India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin went wicketless in the next six outings. The wicket drought ended when RR met the Lucknow franchise once again as the offie pocketed a wicket which took his tally to two wickets from eight matches with an economy rate of nine runs per over.

Given his barren run, Ashwin faced a lot of flak and had even said that wicket-taking had become irrelevant in T20 cricket. The statement drew sharp criticism from former players including his ex-teammate Virender Sehwag who went on to say that the spinner might not find a buyer in the next season.

"Sometimes even when you bowl well, you go for 40 runs. Many teams these days use AI and technology and what's emerged out of those is that wicket-taking is becoming irrelevant in T20 cricket. If you look at this IPL wicket-taking is sometimes hampering certain teams," Ashwin had said on his YouTube channel. He also said that his role with RR is to contain runs. Soon after, the 37-year-old cricketer from Tamil Nadu found himself among wickets as he returned with impressive figures of 3/24 and 2/35 against Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings, respectively. Overall, Ashwin has gone wicketless in eight innings so far in the tournament.

Ashwin is known to speak his mind and at times, his views have not gone down well with fans and experts alike. Unfazed by the criticism that has come his way, Ashwin always tried to focus on sharpening his skills and adding new weapons to his armoury rather than proving his detractors wrong. His recent statement might be debatable and can be proved right or wrong given the situation of the contest but there is no denying the fact that wickets always do a bowler and his team a world of good. Given his 14-year long international experience, Ashwin knew it and chose the perfect day to silence his critics and get back among wickets in the Eliminator on Wednesday.

With New Zealand speedster Trent Boult making Royal Challengers Bengaluru batters dance to his tunes in the first five overs after RR opting to bowl, Ashwin made sure they did not break free in the later stages of the game. He bowled a tight spell to return with impressive figures of 2/19 from his quota of four overs. His two scalps included destructive Australian batters - Cameron Green and Glenn Maxwell.

It was his carrom ball that fetched him the first wicket. Looking for a big shot, Green skied it up as Rovman Powell ran back from cover to pouch the ball high above his head. Ashwin struck again the very next ball as he sent Maxwell back. Facing the first ball, the batter went down the ground only to find Dhruv Jurel at long on. Had Jurel not dropped Rajat Patidar before in the match, Ashwin could have had his best figures this season so far. That dropped catch proved costly as Patidar (34 off 22) along with Mahipal Lomror (17-ball 32) played useful knocks to help their team post 172/8 in 20 overs.

Rajasthan pacer Avesh Khan might have walked away with three wickets in the end but first it was Boult and later Ashwin who dried up runs for the Bengaluru franchise with their openers Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis struggling to get going. Earlier, Boult claimed the wicket of RCB captain while leggie Yuzvendra Chahal had the prized wicket of Kohli. Ashwin took over from thereon as he claimed two wickets of the consecutive deliveries to reduce RCB to 97/4 in 13th over.

"It's been a tournament of two halves for me. First half, I was struggling after a long Test series. Had a few injuries. But last few games I've been enjoying my bowling. In fact I messaged Virat (Kohli) last night that let's battle it out one more time on the big stage. Dew has come on nicely. There is a bit of dew today. From a bowler's perspective I hope it doesn't swell too much, but from the batting team chasing, it's good for us," Ashwin told the broadcasters during the innings break.

In reply, Rajasthan started well but lost a few quick wickets before Riyan Parag and Shimron Hetmyer played a sensible knock each to take the team closer to the target. The duo departed thereafter but Ashwin joined Powell in the middle as Rajasthan won by four wickets with one over to spare. After playing a stellar role in the Royals' win on Wednesday, Ashwin will have another opportunity to swell his wicket tally, this time on his home turf, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday.

Brief scores: Royal Challengers Bengaluru 172/8 in 20 ovs (Patidar 34; Ashwin 2/19, Avesh 3/44) lost to Rajasthan Royals 174/6in 19 ovs (Jaiswal 45, Parag 36)

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