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A setback to Rajasthan Royals’ IPL 2021 campaign, a long-awaited win for the Sunrisers. All that today’s outcome meant to the two teams. But as they say, what’s bound to hurt will hurt anyway. After all, it’s hard to see our captain Sanju Samson’s heroics going in vain once again. So we have two defeats on the bounce, and essentially the same story: Sanju battling against all odds only to see the opponents have the last laugh.

The evening started with the Royals winning the toss in Dubai, the scene of our thrilling win against Punjab Kings last week, and opting to bat first. We made three changes to the side, with Morris and Lewis coming back from injuries, while Jaydev Unadkat got a look-in after Kartik Tyagi missed out due to a niggle.

Despite the early wicket of Lewis, who pulled one straight to the man at the square leg boundary, the Royals breezed through the Powerplay, scoring 49/1. Yashasvi, unswayed by Lewis’ wicket, seemed to be comfortable against SRH’s pace attack and helped his captain settle in with the bat by keeping the momentum going.

The 19-year-old played some exquisite shots, often waltzing down the pitch with a swagger that’d make you think he’s been playing in this league for years. However, his innings came to an end in the same manner. After smashing Sandeep Sharma for a majestic six over long off, he misjudged a full toss while charging down, bottom edging the ball onto his stumps.

After Yashasvi’s departure, the onus was on Sanju to take the innings forward and he did exactly what was expected of him. Maybe even more. After a splendid 53-ball unbeaten 70 against DC, Sanju produced another masterclass amidst adversity. With Liam departing to a catch at the fine leg boundary for not too many, Sanju then put together an 84-run stand with Mahipal Lomror for the 4th wicket. However, Mahi couldn’t quite hit the heights of his innings against Punjab, instead helping as an anchorman while Sanju took off.

The skipper was initially circumspect, focusing on staying in and building a partnership. At one point he was on 38 (36), but then shifted gears with some incredible strokeplay, single-handedly taking the Royals to a respectable total, and scoring his last 44 runs in 21 balls.

However, after struggling to keep us in check in the middle overs, SRH were able to bounce back at the death. Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceded only 7 runs in the 19th over while Siddharth Kaul, bowling the 20th, gave away just five runs and claimed two scalps – Sanju and Riyan – as we tried to clear the boundary. At the end of it all, we posted a total of 164/5 – probably 15-20 short of what we’d have liked.

However, we had every right to feel confident at the break, considering we were up against an SRH side low on confidence, and more so because of our impressive bowling performance against DC. It didn’t quite go to plan after that, though. Jason Roy and Wriddhiman Saha looked far too comfortable against our pacers during the first five overs of the Powerplay, as they galloped to 57/0. Sanju then summoned spin in the form of Mahipal Lomror, who got us our first breakthrough as Saha was stumped thanks to some quick glovework by the skipper.

With Jason Roy and Kane Williamson’s partnership emulating the ebb and flow of the stand between Yashasvi and Sanju, our bowlers were frustrated and wicketless for the next six overs. It was Chetan Sakariya, who interestingly came on to bowl only in the 12th over, who got the wicket of Roy, smartly caught by Sanju down the leg side. Fizz then came on from the other end and got rid of Garg cheaply to give us some hope, but by that time the required run rate was well under control, making it the perfect situation for Kane Williamson, who could pace the innings calmly. We weren’t able to pull a rabbit out of the hat like against Punjab, and SRH completed their chase with ease in the 19th over, with 7 wickets in hand.

Two wins in a row followed by back-to-back defeats. Our form has been up and down the entire season, but it’s not the end of the road. Our fate is still in our hands, as the boys look to regroup, recharge, and redeem themselves against RCB on Wednesday. We now need to win all our games to be sure of qualification, but first we’d look to improve as a team, and then take it one game at a time. In our captain’s words, “We need to be at our best each and every ball. We need to lift our standards.”

And of course, if anyone can come back roaring when pushed into a corner, it’s us. Halla Bol.