How many emotions did that match have? Jubilation, sorrow, happiness, excitement, euphoria, tension, fear, anger. There was a rush of adrenalin in each one of them, but one emotion hit Rajasthan Royals fans harder than the rest – heartbreak. A Sanju Samson special, improved death bowling, a firing middle-order – everything fell in place at the Wankhede stadium. But, we fell four runs short of what would have been a magnificent victory. Make no mistake though, that this was an epic chase in many ways. After losing two quick wickets in the Powerplay, the maturity that Sanju Samson showed, left a certain amount of warmth in our hearts. He got going only when he knew he had to and when the team truly needed it, and the innings got perfectly paced. Samson became the first player to score a century on his IPL captaincy debut. He broke many more records – scored his highest T20 score and secured the highest individual score by a Royals batsman too. These are times, when you don’t really care about not winning or lament about it. These are times when we are proud of how Samson & the Rajasthan Royals team played on the field. What. A. Game.
The toss is usually talked up a lot at the Wankhede stadium with the dew factor always within sighting distance. Rajasthan Royals’ new skipper, Sanju Samson won the toss and had no doubt in electing to field. The Powerplay started well for both teams, with a decent amount of runs for the Kings, while the Royals got the ball in the right areas. Sakariya, who was making his IPL debut looked impressive, as he extracted some shape on the ball, and got us the first breakthrough, in the form of Mayank Agarwal. Gayle and Rahul though ensured the Kings had no more casualties in the Powerplay, as they climbed to 46.
Gayle was looking threatening after hitting a few mighty hits, but in the nick of time, Samson got Riyan into the attack to unsettle the Universe Boss. Parag bowled a slingy, near under-arm ball that yorked Gayle. The next time the duo met, Riyan got the storm under his control by getting him caught at long on.
Rahul was joined by Deepak Hooda, a former Rajasthan Royals player. The man from Baroda took instant liking to Gopal’s leggies and Dube’s medium pace, picking up 5 sixes in 8 balls to get the run-rate soaring once again. Rahul at the other end, was going steadily, picking up the regular boundary. The Kings raced past 150 in no time and they had 161 on the board with 5 over left.
Sakariya, who is known to thrown down different kinds of variations had a good start to the 17th over, but some smart batting, a no-ball and a free-hit turned it into a rather expensive one. Morris controlled proceedings in the penultimate over of the innings quite well after being smashed for two sixes by Rahul. Morris managed to claim two wickets as well, those of Hooda and the dangerous Pooran on a golden duck. It took a fine diving catch by Sakariya to send Pooran back. Several replays confirmed that he had got his fingers under the ball.
Sakariya then came on to bowl the final over. The bag full of variations were unleashed and all the Kings could get were five runs. He finished with figures of 3/21 on his IPL debut, impressing the fans and commentators alike. Rajasthan Royals kept the opponents to 221. Although it looked like a huge total, not too long ago, we had chased down 224 to win against the same side.
One question that was constantly looming over the Rajasthan Royals camp, was finally answered when the two openers walked out – Ben Stokes & Manan Vohra, who was making his Royals debut, after being in the squad since the 2019 IPL season. While Stokes got out in the first over, Vohra played a couple of flourishing shots and looked good to carry on. However, he mistimed a ball straight back to Arshdeep, who took a sharp catch on his follow-through.
The Royals seemed to have got themselves into a hole with half of the Powerplay left, and Buttler joining Samson. Buttler turned the tables when he smashed Meredith for four consecutive boundaries in the 5th over. Samson joined in as well in the following over, as the Royals’ Powerplay score read 59/2.
The Buttler-Samson stand was broken by a wily slower, yorker from Jhye Richardson. Buttler was beaten for lack of pace, and was castled for a 13-ball 25. Samson, who had been given a couple of chances early on kept the run-rate healthy by picking his spots. Shivam Dube started well as he got off the mark with a boundary and kept the scoreboard ticking by running hard with Sanju. At the half-way mark of the innings, Rajasthan Royals managed to creep up to 95/3.
Samson upped the ante, as he took on the expensive Meredith in the 11th over. The Royals skipper picked up a nonchalant six with a hook and a deft boundary with an upper cut. The two boundaries helped him to get to his 50 in his first game as an IPL skipper. He was also adjudged out, lbw, later in the over, but he took the review instantly. The ball was travelling way over the stumps and Samson stayed put.
Dube shifted gears soon enough, as he brought out the big hits. While Dube is known to be a big-hitter, he could only find the boundaries. Looking for his first maximum, he miscued a slog high in the air and was caught right in front of the Royals dug-out for 23. Samson was joined by the enterprising Riyan Parag. The 19-year old started off with a gorgeous cover drive to get off the mark with four. The second ball he faced, in the following over off Shami, Riyan brought out a pick-up shot for the ages; the ball sailed over the mid-wicket fence for a huge six. The over went for 13 runs, and Rajasthan Royals needed 81 runs off the final 6 overs.
Samson was severe on Richardson in the 15th over. He picked a slower one, carving it over point and the ball spun away to the fence. He then whipped a leg-side delivery, flat over the mid-wicket fence for six. The runs and boundaries were coming thick and fast. After the over, Rajasthan Royals needed 68 off 30.
Samson punished a flighted ball from Ashwin by launching it into the top tier to start the 16th. Riyan survived a stumping appeal after he missed a pull shot; thankfully, he had his back foot inside the popping crease. On the next delivery, he sliced and mistimed a swing, but the ball just about cleared the long off fielder. Parag bettered his previous stroke by lofting a wide delivery over the cover fence for the third six of the over. The Royals got their 20-run over they were looking for. The equation came pelting down to 48 off 24.
Riyan perished at the start of the 17th, gloving a Shami bouncer to KL Rahul. He did his part, scoring a rapid-fire 25 off 11 balls. That brought Rajasthan Royals’ 2020 star, Rahul Tewaia to the centre. Sanju got a much-needed boundary in the over, as we got 8 off it. The equation was still hanging in the balance – 40 needed off 18.
Samson started the 18th, by picking up the slower one and dispatching it to the cover fence effortlessly. That was followed by an even more effortless hit – a picturesque loft over the extra-cover fence. He moved to 98 with those two hits, and secured the highest score by a debuting skipper in the IPL. He didn’t waste much time, as he got to three figures with a sculptor-like carve through short third man for four. This was his third IPL century, and his second for Rajasthan Royals. The 18th over yielded 19 runs and we needed 21 off the final two overs.
Tewatia nicked the first ball of the 19th to Rahul and had to depart. It just wasn’t his day, as he scored 2 of 4 balls. Morris couldn’t get the first one he faced away for a single or more, but did so on the third ball of the over. Samson then got a juicy length delivery on his pads and picked it up for a biggie over the mid-wicket fence. Sanju got a single off the penultimate deliver, leaving Morris with the last ball of the over. He swung hard, but missed the ball completely.
Rajasthan Royals needed 13 off the final over.
Samson missed the first ball, and it was quite close to the marker outside the off stump for the wide. The umpire didn’t give it a wide. The Royals then picked up a couple of singles and the equation looked a bit tougher with 11 needed off 3. Samson worked his magic, as he got a half-volley, albeit slower, outside off. Samson set himself up and sent the ball packing over extra cover for six.
With 2 balls left, we needed 5 runs. Samson hit the ball straight to deep extra cover and turned down the run. He got a length ball outside off stump and latched onto it, trying to clear the cover fence yet again. However, the ball landed in the hands of the fielder and it resulted in a wicket eventually.
Rajasthan Royals lost the game by just 4 runs, right at the end. Nothing can be taken away from Samson’s effort with the bat. In his first game as captain, he must have had a lot going in his mind. Chasing a humungous target, he paced his innings to perfection and ensured that he stayed till the end to give his team the best possible chance to get over the line. In the end, it was touch-and-go, but we are proud of how the team batted in a tough chase. Next up – we face Delhi Capitals at the same venue on 15th April.