Take a bow, Ben Stokes! Big hugs to Sanju Samson! The dup put together a 152-run stand to power Rajasthan Royals to victory over a strong Mumbai Indians team. Ben Stokes went past 50 for the first time in a Royals jersey and he ensured that he was there right till the end, getting to three figures as well. Samson got back among the runs with a glamorous, unbeaten 54, playing the perfect supporting role to Stokes’ knock. A Pandya-blitz had powered MI to 195 in the first innings, and the Royals batsmen had their task cut out in the chase.

The toss just doesn’t seem to be going Rajasthan Royals’ way. Mumbai Indians’ stand-in skipper, Kieron Pollard won the toss and chose to bat. Smith mentioned that the Royals were playing the same team. The innings got off to a familiar start, as Jofra Archer picked an early wicket, that of the in-form de Kock. The opener had lofted Archer for a six, but the speedster came back strong and got de Kock to chop the ball on.

Suryakumar Yadav & Ishan Kishan put together a strong partnership. They played some good shots in the Powerplay, taking MI’s score to 59/1 by the end of the phase. Gopal & Tewatia managed to keep things quiet for a brief period, but the duo picked up some handy boundaries. The much-needed breakthrough came through a scintillating catch by Jofra Archer. He reminded us of the catch Stokes took for England in the World Cup. It brought out the same emotion in us – No way, Jofra Archer, you can’t do that. It brought out some of the most jaw-dropping reactions from the other fielders and the dug-out. The one-handed pluck left Kishan walking back dejected on 37.

Shreyas Gopal didn’t have the best of starts to his spell, but he came back strong in the 13th over. He dismissed Yadav first who miscued the ball to Stokes at long off. Pollard walked out and smashed Gopal for a big six off his second ball, but was foxed by a quicker one from Shreyas soon after. The ball skidded on and Pollard was late to get his bat down.

The Royals seemed to have things under control until the end of the 16th over, with Archer to bowl two in the death. Archer’s first over was taken for 17 runs as Saurabh Tiwary smacked two fours & a six.  Hardik Pandya got into the act as he dismissed Rajpoot’s length deliveries and full tosses, smashing 4 sixes in the 18th over. The score leapt past 150 and MI had 165 by the 18th.

Archer picked up Tiwary’s wicket in the 19th and conceded just 3 tuns to pull things back the Royals way. However, Pandya had something else planned. He took Kartik Tyagi apart by slamming three sixes and two fours off the 20th over to take MI’s total to 195/5. Rajasthan Royals conceded way too many runs in the final few overs, and had a steep chase at hand.

Robin Uthappa & Ben Stokes came out to open for the Royals. Uthappa got off to a fluent start, hitting a few classical shots. He was undone when he tried one too many off Pattinson and had to walk back on 13. Steve Smith walked in at number 3 and looked to middle almost everything, as he got going early on. He received a big in-swinger from his countryman, Pattinson and the ball found the gap between bat & pad to bowl the Royals skipper.

Ben Stokes didn’t get bogged down by the early wickets and brought out some proper cricket strokes to find the fence regularly. He was severe on Trent Boult & finished the Powerplay off with two consecutive boundaries off Krunal Pandya to take the Royals’ score to 55/2. Samson looked to get his eye in as Stokes belted Chahar for a four & a six in the 8th over. He unleashed his first big shot when he launched Pollard for a clean hit. Stokes went on to score his first half-century for the Royals by the end of the 10th over with two back-to-back fours off Krunal. The Royals needed 97 to win off the final 10 overs with a solid foundation in place.

Pollard brought Bumrah back, hunting for wickets. Stokes & Samson saw him off by playing risk-free shots. There was a huge appeal on the final ball of the over against Stokes, but it was turned down & MI didn’t go for the review. Stokes & Samson played some excellent shots off Pattinson in the 13th over. Stokes first slapped the ball through cover for a gorgeous boundary. Samson then lofted Pattinson for one of his trademark straight sixes. He finished the over with finesse, dabbing the ball past short third man for a boundary. The dup picked up 18 runs off the over.

The carnage continued in the next over too. Chahar was blasted down the ground for a majestic six. Samson then cut Chahar through backward point & short third man for four. He then danced down the track to send the ball sailing past the ropes. The pair brought up their 100-run stand off 63 balls.

Pressure does weird things to the best in the business. Bumrah came on to bowl and dished out a couple of loose deliveries. An in-form, under-control Sanju Samson wasn’t going to miss out on those. He easily found two fours off Bumrah’s over. Boult was brought back on as well, and that didn’t deter Stokes from playing his shots. A mix of three twos & two fours saw us collect 15 runs off his over. The equation had come down to a run-a-ball now. Rajasthan Royals needed 24 off 24 balls.

Pollard had no option but to get Bumrah to bowl the 17th over. Stokes applied the smart approach and plucked the gaps to pick up a brace of twos off the first two balls, moving into the 90s. When Stokes gtot backthe strike, he decided to go after a short one and top-edged the ball to the fence over the keeper.

Stokes got to his second IPL century with a commanding pull shot that went into the grass-banks. He silenced all his critics who wanted him to be pushed down the order. Stokes stuck to his guns, got them out firing all around the park and played a match-winning knock. Sanju Samson got back to form, which was long overdue.

Rajasthan Royals showed what they are capable of, albeit a bit late in the tournament. Chasing 196 was not easy against MI’s attack. After losing quick wickets, Samson & Stokes played beautifully, running with energy between the wickets and taking on anything that was in the zone. The middle-order wasn’t needed this time around and the two made their starts count in some style. The Royals move to 10 points in the table, taking us to 6th position. A resounding performance will serve as the best motivation for the entire squad, as we cling on to our chances of making it to the Playoffs. Halla Bol!