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“We did a lot of match simulations…..”: PBKS’ Shashank-Ashutosh on their partnerships

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Mullanpur: After his side’s two-run loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match, Punjab Kings (PBKS) middle-order batter Shashank Singh lauded Ashutosh Sharma for taking the match to the very last ball and opened up on how match simulation sessions in pre-season camp helped them.

Despite a valiant fightback from Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma after some early wickets, the Punjab Kings (PBKS) fell two runs short of another memorable win against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match at Mullanpur Stadium on Tuesday. SRH has climbed up to fifth place with three wins and two losses, giving them six points. PBKS is in sixth place, having won two and lost three matches, giving them four points.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Shashank praised Ashutosh for his power-hitting and credited him with keeping the side in the hunt till the last minute. “We always play to win. So, we are upset whether we lose by 2 runs or 20 runs. A loss is a loss. But the way we took the game to the final ball, we have to credit Ashutosh for his innings. The way he came down and batted was brilliant. Till the last ball, we had faith and we were discussing in the middle that the chase was possible. We kept telling each other that we would be able to do it. But Unadkat managed to get that one ball that he needed to bowl to restrict us.”

The two batters scripted a partnership of 66* off 27 balls on the night, once again showcasing their on-field camaraderie. While Ashutosh remained unbeaten on 33 off 15 balls (with three fours and two sixes), Shashank finished on 46 not out in 25 balls (with six fours and a six). This came after their 43-run partnership in 22 balls against the Gujarat Titans (GT), which helped them chase down 200 runs after PBKS was down at 150/6 in 15.3 overs. Shashank had become a hero for Punjab with his unbeaten 61* in 29 balls, with five fours and four sixes) and Ashutosh also played a solid knock of 31 in 17 balls, with three fours and a six.

In IPL 2024 so far, Shashank has made 137 runs in five matches at an average of 137.00, with a strike rate of over 195. His best score is 61* and has ended unbeaten four times. Ashutosh, a batter from Madhya Pradesh, has scored 64 runs in two matches at an average of 64.00, with a strike rate of 200. Shashank revealed that the belief shown by the team management and coaching staff helped them gain confidence when asked about the secret behind their tremendous partnerships.

“We did a lot of match simulations in the pre-season Punjab Kings camp. We bat in the middle overs, so we were given a lot of scenarios. We had to chase 60-70 runs in 5 overs and we were able to do so a few times. So, we have faith and we both trust each other. Even if we need 60 runs in the final 4 overs, we feel confident we can get one big over and get the win. The credit has to be given to the coaching staff, support staff, and management who have given us self-confidence and belief.”

The 32-year-old further opened up on the learnings from the match and said he would discuss with coaches how he can continue to improve further. “Individually, I was able to middle the ball a lot in the game, which has given me a lot of confidence. But if we are unable to get the win, then there is always scope for improvement. So, we have to discuss the same with coaches now on how we can ensure we get those crucial 2-3 runs, or which bowlers in which situations I can target to do even better. That is the learning for us,” Shashank said.

Speaking on his role for the team, Shashank said that he has to finish off the games for the Punjab Kings and get the win. “In the middle overs, our task is to take the game deep to the last over and win the game for our side. It is not possible every time. But if we can spend time on the crease, and adjust well to conditions, then it improves our chances. The more I can finish off games, the more beneficial it will be for the team,” he signed off.

Coming to the match, PBKS opted to bowl first. SRH was reduced to 100/5 in 13.1 overs at one point. A 50-run partnership between Nitish Reddy (64 in 37 balls, with four boundaries and five sixes) and Abdul Samad (25 in 12 balls, with five fours) helped SRH push the score to 182/9 in 20 overs. Arshdeep Singh (4/29) was the pick of the bowlers. Harshal Patel (2/30) and Sam Curran (2/41) were also great with the ball. Kagiso Rabada took a wicket for PBKS.

In the run-chase of 183, PBKS lost wickets frequently and were reduced to 114/6 in 15.3 overs. A remarkable fightback from Shashank Singh (46* in 25 balls, with six fours and a six) and Ashutosh Sharma (33* in 15 balls, with three fours and two sixes) almost sealed a win for Punjab, but they fell short by two runs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/32) was the pick of the bowlers for SRH. Skipper Pat Cummins, Jaydev Unadkat, T Natrajan, and Nitish Reddy took a wicket each for SRH.

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