One of the talking points of the last mega auction held in 2022 was the bowling line-up assembled by Rajasthan Royals. With the spin pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and R Ashwin along with left-arm pacer Trent Boult, it was the envy of most franchises. The three were experienced, with a good record, and still at the top of their game.

Rajasthan Royals’ Yuzvendra Chahal, left, celebrates with teammate Ravichandran Ashwin after the dismissal of Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Virat Kohli(AP)

Boult, a proven performer with the new ball, has taken 118 wickets in the T20 league. And one needn’t be an expert to understand the strategy of having Chahal and Ashwin bowling in tandem. The leggie is an IPL legend as the all-time highest wicket-taker (now at 205). And for all his exploits in Test cricket, Ashwin is also a product of T20 cricket, having used the IPL platform to first make his mark when he was a CSK player. His tally stands at 180.

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They had helped the team reach the 2022 final but lost the title clash to Gujarat Titans. With such a pairing, anything short of the title is considered an underachievement.

The three bowling legends sure have unfinished business at RR. This could well be the last season the spin duo bowls together. It’s time for another mega auction, and you never know which player will land up where. Most franchises will start anew.

In their Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bengaluru at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Wednesday, the three were in inspired form and played their part well to star in the four-wicket win, taking their team a step closer to taking another shot at the title. For a spot in the final against Kolkata Knight Riders, RR will play Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier 2 in Chennai on Friday.

After RR captain Sanju Samson elected to field, Boult and Ashwin gave nothing away during spells of 4-0-16-1 and 4-0-19-1 and Chahal picked up the prized scalp of Virat Kohli to restrict the in-form RCB to 172/8.

The RR batters came out and complemented those efforts by chasing down the total in 19 overs. Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal survived some anxious moments but hit 45 off 30 balls. Riyan Parag made a composed 36 off 26 balls to end RCB’s winning run of six matches.

At the end of 15 overs in their chase of 173, RR had reached 126/4, needing 47 from 30 balls. The game was still open. But Shimron Hetmyer and Parag hit Cameron Green for two sixes and a four to bring the equation down to 30 off 24 balls and finish the game as a contest.

Earlier, as if taking a cue from KKR’s left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc’s performance with the new ball at the venue on Tuesday, Boult was right on the money from the first ball.

RCB openers Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis struggled to get the left-arm pacer away. Generating movement, Boult was sharp. Realising that the two were looking to attack his pace to the midwicket region, captain Sanju Samson placed one of the two fielders outside the ring, at deep midwicket. It worked. Du Plessis fell into the trap by pulling Boult’s fourth ball of the third over and Rovman Powell took a superb low catch diving forward, the first of his four catches while his teammates dropped two easy ones.

After five overs, RCB were 37/1. Boult had figures of 3-0-6-1. Du Plessis had fallen and Kohli had been kept in check at 18 runs (14b 1×4 1×6).

SPIN ON

Immediately after the fielding restrictions were lifted, Samson had his spin pair on. Ashwin bowled a tight first over for six runs to tighten the screws on the batters. When Chahal came on, Kohli attempted to break the shackles with his new weapon, the slog sweep, but it went straight to substitute Donovan Ferreira at deep midwicket. Kohli (33, 24b) hit it against the spin and just couldn’t get enough elevation.

Samson built the pressure with five overs of Chahal and Ashwin. From 50/1 after 6 overs, the RCB total had moved to 82/2 after 11 overs at a run rate of 7.45.

Samson’s move to bowl Ashwin’s four overs unchanged paid off when in the 13th over the ace off-spinner struck a double blow to reduce RCB to 97/4. Ashwin got Cameron Green and Glenn Maxwell off successive balls to be on a hat-trick.

Ashwin said he had discovered his rhythm in the business end of the tournament. “It’s been a tournament of two halves for me. First half, I was struggling after a long Test series. I had a few injuries. But last few games I’ve been enjoying my bowling. In fact, I messaged Virat last night that let’s battle it out one more time on the big stage.”