The Punjab Kings’ (PBKS) move to send Jitesh Sharma ahead of the in-form Liam Livingstone against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) raised quite a few eyebrows. However, the wicketkeeper-batter repaid the faith shown in him, playing a fine cameo of 38 * (18) to help PBKS post a challenging total of 189/5 in their 20 overs.
Earlier in the innings, Jonny Bairstow finally came good in his natural position at the top of the order, scoring 56. He received able support from Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who managed 27. However, wickets in the middle overs brought RR back in the game.
Just as the Royals began applying the breaks, Jitesh Sharma dashed their hopes of restricting PBKS to a below-par total with his brilliant knock.
Fans on Twitter hailed the 28-year-old for making the most of his opportunities. Here are some of the reactions:
Bairstow, Jitesh Sharma power PBKS to 189/5
With Mayank Agarwal demoting himself down the order, the idea seemed to be to let Bairstow play freely at the top. Although it did not work out well in the last game, the English star made full use of the powerplay restrictions this time around.
Shikhar Dhawan struggled to time the ball at the other and was dismissed cheaply. However, Bairstow was then joined by Rajapaksa and the duo steadied Punjab’s innings. The opener brought up an important half-century and Rajapaksa also played a handy cameo before being dismissed.
But RR pulled things back, with Yuzvendra Chahal once again being the pick of the bowlers with three scalps to his name. Liam Livingstone played a few good shots during his 22-run knock, but it was Jitesh Sharma who dominated the RR bowlers.
Sharma almost found boundaries at will to give Punjab some much-needed impetus in the death overs. PBKS will be happy having set a target of 190 in a day game. They would have hoped to pick up early wickets and expose RR’s lack of depth in batting to give themselves a good chance of winning the game.
However, a stellar start from Jos Buttler, who scored 30 off just 16 balls before falling to Kagiso Rabada, led RR to 67/1 at the end of the powerplay.