The Capitals of Shreyas Iyer faced the Royals of Steve Smith tonight at the Ring of Fire. Rajasthan Royals have had a jailbreak win against SRH last match. These sorts of victories can turn an entire team into a more strong-knit unit and RR would hope to revive their derailed campaign after stealing success from the jaws of defeat. DC has performed to their potential, except for the last match, where Dhawan seems too conservative in his approach.

DC won the toss and chose to bat on a tired pitch at Dubai, which was expected to progressively get slow. FINALLY, at long last, Smith got his combination of opening bowlers right. I have been repeating time and again, that Tyagi and Archer would be RR’s best opening bowlers and for the first time in the tournament, after 7 matches, Smith got the combination right. The result was there to see. Archer scalped the dangerous Prithvi Shaw with the first ball of the match, as the young lad was beaten for pace.

Rahane was Archer’s 2nd victim in the powerplay, failing to capitalize on one more chance, as he replaced the injured Pant in the playing 11. Tyagi bowled mostly accurate lines at a good pace except a couple being sprayed down the leg-side. Rajasthan Royals have finally found their opening bowlers and the oppositions will have a hard time batting in the powerplay against both Archer and Tyagi.

DC captain Shreyas Iyer and Shikar Dhawan

Shreyas Iyer and Dhawan consolidated the inning from here on. There must have been a clear directive to Dhawan, after his slow inning in the last match against MI. Tonight, he batted with more intent, as he did not shy away from playing high-risk shots. I have believed for a long that the best performance of Dhawan comes out when he is playing a fearless brand of cricket and tonight for the first time, this IPL ‘Gabbar’ played his natural brand of cricket. No wonder, he scored 57 tonight, at a strike-rate of 172, outscoring Iyer in the partnership.

After a weak powerplay, Iyer and Dhawan took the attack to the opposition in the middle overs. The indifferent RR spinners Tewatia and Gopal could not make many inroads into the DC lineup as controlled madness from Iyer and ultra-aggressive pyrotechnics from Dhawan ensured that DC reached 130-3 at the end of 15 overs. Iyer looked particularly impressive playing the ideal counterfoil to Dhawan, holding the inning together. He is sending out a strong message through this IPL, that the controversial No. 4 position in the Indian batting line-up is one, that belongs to him.

DC captain Shreyas Iyer

Tonight he scored another half-century at a strike-rate of 125. However, he was dismissed at the wrong juncture of the match, just when Delhi was expected to shift gears. It was great to see Archer and Tyagi coming back together for the slog overs. Archer was on a different level tonight, as he fired cannonballs at the batsmen, with that deceptive ambling runup to the crease. I was most impressed by Tyagi’s accuracy of yorkers and the pace at which he delivered them to Carey and Stoinis. The in-form Stoinis found it difficult against the youngster as well, and both Archer and Tyagi ensured that DC scored 31 from their last 5 overs at the cost of 4 wickets.

Finally, DC ended with a par score of 161-7. They would have aimed for 180 after the 15-over-mark. But Smith was absolutely spot-on with his death bowling combination tonight. Tyagi and Archer should be stuck to, in subsequent matches in the powerplay, as well as in the death. However, Smith may look to bring in the quality of Mayank Markande in place of the misfiring Jaydev Unadkat. I believe this can be an inspiring move, especially with the pitches slowing up at UAE, in due course of time.

Steve Smith captain of Rajasthan

As much as I praised Smith for his leadership skills on the field, I equally despised his stubbornness regarding the team’s batting order. As I stated in the last match for RR, this is not the right combination to go forward with. RCB had tried this in the past and learned it the hard way. I sincerely hope, Smith learns this before it is too late for his team.

Sending all your best batsmen out early, only spells doom for your team in the end overs. You need a finisher with a stable head at 4 or 5, who have closed matches in the past to be at the crease in the 15th/16th overs. This is exactly where RR is missing out on the service of Stokes. Tewatia and Parag can save you the blushes in one odd game, but unless Smith rectifies his decision it will be very difficult for his team to move to the playoffs.

Tonight, Butler and Stokes opened and threatened to sizzle. It looked like the objective given to both of them is to go all out in the powerplay. Both Stokes and Butler took advantage of the fielding restrictions to slam Rabada, Deshpande, and Nortje. Butler played a couple of those exotic scoop shots, after which he was dismissed by a 150 kmph snorter from Nortje. Players like Butler and Stokes are too good to play small cameos. The team management needs to assign a more responsible role for them in upcoming matches.

Ben Stokes of Rajasthan Royals & Sanju Samson of Rajasthan Royals

Ravi Ashwin has improved his white-ball bowling skills by a huge margin in this year’s IPL. He is bowling good tight line and length and not trying fancy things like bowling leg-spin. He is sticking to his off-spin, carrom ball, and doosra and foxing the batsman with changes in pace. This is Ashwin v2.0 we are seeing this IPL and we hope, that he can make a comeback in India’s limited-overs setup pretty soon. Tonight he accounted for Smith with the carrom ball, that stuck to the wicket and lobbed up for an easy return catch.

Soon after, Stokes was dismissed in the 11th over by an off-cutter from Deshpande, and once again, the RR batting order lost the head of the snake, before stepping into the 2nd half of the inning. Samson, proceeded on his downward slide- something he has done in the past 4 seasons of IPL. He always begins the season with a couple of awe-inspiring knocks and finally tapers off towards the end of the season. This season has been no different from him.

There is a reason, why in spite of being in and around international cricket for 13 years, Uthappa is nowhere in the reckoning for a place in the national side. The reason- he fails in crucial junctures. This was one such match, where taking his team would have brought him huge accolades from cricket pundits. As expected he fizzled out midway and got castled by a Nortje yorker.

Rabada and Nortje are putting up an exhibition for DC this IPL. Ashwin’s guile has only added to the team’s repertoire. DC is looking like a formidable team and may end up becoming one of the contenders for the champion’s crown, this year. As for RR, they need to win 5 of their remaining 6 matches and if Smith continues fiddling with the batting order, the way ahead is going to be very difficult for them.