Before the tournament got underway, our brand ambassador, Shane Warne predicted that Sanju Samson will be the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in this season of Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL). Let’s just say that Sanju Samson has gotten a lot of fans to agree with Warnie after that magnificent century that lit up the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. That knock took Rajasthan Royals to 198 off their 20 overs. However, the Sunrisers openers gained some early momentum to take control of the chase. The Royals bowled out of their skins and fielded exceptionally in the last 10 overs in an attempt to tilt the momentum in our favour. However, the equation required towards the end was in Sunrisers’ favour and their lower middle-order saw them over the finish line. Ajinkya Rahane won his second consecutive toss in as many games. He had no hesitation to bat first, expecting the pitch to play well and taking first hit on it. The Royals got off to a cautious start, scoring just 15 runs off the first three overs. We lost Buttler cheaply this time around when he tried to sweep a quick googly from Rashid Khan. The man who scored 69 in our first game missed the ball which went on to hit the leg stump. Sanju Samson joined our skipper, and ensured that we did not lose any further wickets during the Powerplay. Samson freed his arms for the first time in the seventh over, when he lofted Shahbaz Nadeem for a nonchalant six. He followed up with one more biggie off Kaul in the next over. Samson didn’t seem to fazed by Rashid Khan’s reputation as he paddled him wonderfully down to the fine leg fence in the ninth over. Rahane got into the act soon, when he danced down the track to send a Nadeem delivery for a straight six. At the end of the half-way mark, Rajasthan Royals got themselves into a steady position at 75/1. Both Samson and Rahane cut loose to give the run-rate a super boost. Rahane got to his half-century in the 13th over, while Samson followed suit in the subsequent over. At the end of the 15th over, the Royals looked good for a massive launch in the death overs, sitting on 122/1. Rahane, who had taken a liking to Nadeem’s bowling, went after him once again, launching him for a picturesque six over cover. However, in the same over, Rahane miscued a hit to long on and had to walk back on a well-compiled, 49-ball 70. The wicket brought Ben Stokes to the crease with a fluent Samson going all guns blazing. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was at Samson’s receiving end in the 18th over. One of India’s finest bowlers was taken to the cleaners as Sanju Samson started with a gorgeous maximum over long off. The next ball, a near Yorker, was squeezed out skilfully through point for a boundary. The third delivery was an even better shot to the fence through the same region. The over saw the final two balls disappear to the ropes. In all, Samson smashed Kumar for 24 runs. The 19th over saw some more clean hitting and good running between Samson and Stokes, the latter of who was enjoying the show from the non-striker’s end. Samson got a juicy full toss that he dispatched way beyond the mid-wicket boundary, and took him into the 90s. 13 runs were accumulated off the penultimate over of the innings. The last over had more carnage, and the only difference was that Ben Stokes got into the act too. Stokes got the final over underway with an unbelievable reverse ramp over third man. He then rotated the strike to bring Sanju Samson was in striking distance of a second Vivo IPL century. He got to his century with a strike down the ground, which was further aided by a mis-field. The stylish batsman from Kerala got to his first century for Rajasthan Royals. Stokes finished the innings with back-to-back boundaries; a ramp and a thick outside edge, both of which fetched runs that took the total to 198. Our defence didn’t start the way we wanted it to, with Warner going berserk in the Powerplay. The only quiet over during this phase came in the fourth over when Jofra Archer conceded just 3 runs with some quick, skiddy bowling. The Powerplay yielded 69 runs, as Warner raced away to his fifty off just 26 balls. Jonny Bairstow, at the other end, picked his spots regularly to support Warner. The pair continued to pick up boundaries at will, but the Royals did not give up hope, as they kept trying to bowl various lines and lengths. Success fell into our lap when Warner miscued a quick bouncer off Stokes, to Dhawal Kulkarni at fine leg. Stokes could have got Bairstow’s wicket in the same over, but Kulkarni spilled one at third man. Kulkarni found redemption in the following over when he pulled off something that would appear impossible to anyone who saw the catch. Stationed at long off, Bairstow hit a Shreyas Gopal delivery aerially, and it appeared to be sailing over DK’s head. However, DK leapt high in the air with his arms out-stretched a couple of feet over his head. The ball stuck and it was a catch that left Bairstow stunned as well. The Sunrisers skipper, Kane Williamson batted in his trademark fashion, while Vijay Shankar took to the long handle as he hit a few sixes off our bowlers. Jaydev Unadkat, who came into the attack in the 13th over brought his variations to good use, and managed to send the SRH captain back to the pavilion. Williamson slashed at a delivery outside off, but found the safe hands of Rahul Tripathi at point. Vijay Shankar seemed to be behind the wheel in the chase, as he closed the gap in the equation for the Sunrisers. However, a brave move by Rahane saw Shreyas Gopal bowling the 16th over. The leggie tossed the ball with confidence and reaped rewards when he got Shankar to mistime one to long on, where substitute, Prashant Chopra took a comfortable catch. Shreyas Gopal wasn’t done in the over yet. The wily Karnataka bowler sent in a googly to Manish Pandey who played for leg spin. The ball went on to hit his pad first, right in front of the stumps. The umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger and that got him on a hat-trick. Rashid Khan faced the hat-trick ball, but kept it at bay. Gopal gave away just 4 runs in an extremely successful over. 30 needed off 24 balls Archer was given the responsibility to bowl the 17th over. He didn’t get off to an ideal start, as Pathan launched a short ball over the mid-wicket fence. Archer, though, stayed composed to leak just one run and an extra off the remaining deliveries. 20 needed off 18 balls The ball was handed to Unadkat for the 18th over. He got his variations going once again, as the Sunrisers batsmen looked to get that one boundary that could tilt the game completely in their favour. Pathan miscued a slower one off the fourth ball, but it fell short of a charging Prashant Chopra at long on. On the fifth delivery, Rahane put in a brilliant dive at cover to keep the ball from racing away to the fence. The last ball evened the equation out as Rashid Khan and Pathan scampered through for a quick couple. 12 needed off 12 balls Archer started the penultimate over with an accurate Yorker to Pathan. The ball was pushed to mid-off, and the batsmen couldn’t steal a run. The second ball, almost a Yorker, was squeezed to third man and Pathan collected a single. Rashid Khan then bunted a full toss past the non-striker, as Stokes ran in to keep the batsmen down to one. The fourth ball was edged by Pathan to third man for one. Archer then bowled a wide down the leg side which was followed by a boundary hit by Khan through cover. Rashid Khan finished the game with a flick that soared over square leg. As opposed to its reputation, the Hyderabad ground saw close to 400 runs on a day where the ball disappeared to all corners of the park. Sanju Samson played an absolute beauty of a knock to start the game off with, and there were some good bowling performances, despite the start SRH got in the first 10 overs. Ajinkya Rahane put it rightly; “The way they batted, credit goes to them for gaining momentum in the chase. I don’t think our bowlers did anything wrong, their batsmen played really well.” He had words of appreciation for Samson as well during the post-match presentation. “he has been fantastic for us. We all know how talented he is. From here on, consistency is the key for Sanju.” Although we lost, Samson has given us a memory that will stay etched in our minds forever.
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