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Mustafizur Rahman, Kartik Tyagi pull off a coup as Punjab Kings suffer yet another meltdown

Kings needed eight from the last two overs with eight wickets in hand, and still lost

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Punjab Kings need eight runs off the final two overs. They have eight wickets in hand. Aiden Markram, signed as a late replacement because of his scintillating form in Sri Lanka, and Nicholas Pooran, widely touted to be one of the cleanest six-hitters, have put on a half-century stand off just 28 balls. A defeat looms large for Rajasthan Royals. Surely, they weren't thinking of a coup. Or maybe they were, because it's Kings who, not for the first time in recent memory, contrived to turn it into a game of nerves.
Mustafizur Rahman isn't the easiest bowler to put away at the best of times. On a surface with a hint of grip towards the end, the left-arm seamer varied his slower ones masterfully, going back of a length, digging one hard into the surface, and then bowling four stunning wide yorkers from different release points. So what if he had conceded 27 off his first three wicketless overs? This was the kind of mastery he had displayed when he became David Warner's right-hand man in a sensational MVP and title-winning performance in 2016 with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Yet for all that, Kings need just four in the final over. Eight wickets in hand. Surely, they weren't going to bottle up the chase. Surely, it was just a matter of one blow that would seal the deal. The man delivering it was Kartik Tyagi, a rookie in every sense. Someone who is known to have the pace but can also spray it around. Life hasn't quite been the same for the 20-year-old since IPL 2020.
Firstly, a bout of Covid led him to miss a portion of the first half of the season. When he was finally fit, he saw another rookie in Chetan Sakariya overtake him in the pecking order. So, in many ways, Tyagi was on a comeback on Tuesday night. You can see he is nervous, the wry smile on his face after delivering a high full toss for a dot ball a dead giveaway. It's still four off five. The camera pans to Anil Kumble, the Kings coach. Surely, he's not yet down the 'oh no, not again' road. He smiles, knowing well victory is just one biff away.
Tyagi now alters his line, goes full and wide; Markram drags it into the leg side for a single. Now, it's three from four balls with Pooran on strike. He's on 32 off 21 balls, the fluency that eluded him in the first half of the IPL has found its way back. The very fact that the team has backed him despite four ducks - even if it feels like so long ago - is a sure shot indication of how much they rate him. Here's Pooran's opportunity to repay that faith and close the game off without much fuss.
Tyagi bowls full again, almost yorker length, gets it to tail away a touch. Pooran attempts a cute little steer behind, only to nick it to Sanju Samson. Smiles turn into a frown, but surely Kings still think the game is in their grasp. Three from three, with Deepak Hooda on strike.
He has managed just one score of 20 or more in his last six outings, so in a sense, his inclusion ahead of Shahrukh Khan is another ringing endorsement of his abilities. He began the season, in April, with a bruising 64 off 28 balls against the same opponents at the Wankhede Stadium. He had hit four fours and six sixes that night. Here, all he needs to do is put bat to ball. But he ends up walking across to chase a wide ball and misses. Dot ball. Three from two.
Now, Hooda really needs to find a release shot, or so we assume as he shadow practices a slog. Tyagi goes full and wide again. It would've certainly been called wide had he let it go. All he manages is an edge that's taken by Samson.
Three from one. Kumble is fuming now. Rahul is wiping sweat off his forehead. Tyagi, at the top of his mark, shows zen-like calm. He takes a deep breath, steams in and bowls a stunning wide yorker. Allen fails to make contact, and just like that Tyagi has delivered four successive dots. Under immense pressure, to steal two points from under the rug of the shell-shocked Kings.
The century stand upfront between KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, the five-for from Arshdeep Singh, late wickets by Mohammed Shami - all of it seems pointless. Kings have six points from nine games. They may have to win all their next five matches to make it to the playoffs. They couldn't have made it any tougher for themselves.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo