Monday evening blockbuster between Rajasthan and Punjab was one edge-of-the-seat thriller for all fans. The entertainment and fireworks that began in the first over, ended only on the last ball with Sanju Samson been caught on the boundary, a yard short of what would’ve been an inspirational win. While Punjab would find themselves lucky to be on the right side of the finish, the encounter was right up there with the best that IPL has ever witnessed.
Chasing a 222 run target, Rajasthan had a dismal start losing both their openers early. The rebel came in later in form of skipper Sanju Samson and the explosive Jos Buttler. The two added a 45 for the third wicket, but more importantly, set up the tone for the innings to follow. It was the Rajasthan captain, Samson, absolutely magnificent on the night of the finals almost taking his team through to a win. He showed great temperament and skill to ensure consistent hitting even through the middle overs. Not afraid to take the bowlers on, Samson played a few sumptuous shots on the off as well as the one in what seemed to be an inhuman effort to take his team close to the massive target. He was well supported by the young likes of Shivam Dube and Riyan Parag, who themselves brought their A-game to the fore with useful cameos. Parag in fact began his innings with a four and a six – two of the most beautiful shots that the innings had seen.
When @IamSanjuSamson scores 25 it is a melody. This century is a symphony. An absolute treat to watch from one of the most gifted players around.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) April 12, 2021
The onslaught for Samson on the other hand, only got better as the innings went on. He paced his innings so well, hitting almost every other ball for a boundary in the later stages of his game. Samson brought his 3rd IPL century in the 18th over but did not fancy the celebration with a more important task at hand. Punjab still needed 21 of the last 2 overs, with the just-in Rahul Tewatia on strike. Bowled by Riley Meredith, the penultimate over went for only 8, setting up 13 for young Arshdeep to defend. The left-arm pacer came in over the wicket and used the angle to good effect bowling six wide outside-off deliveries, difficult to hit by. Samson still managed to hit a six over extra-cover off the fourth ball bringing the equation down to 5 needed off 2. Most days at this stage, most teams would cash in any scoring opportunity coming their way.
Samson in the post match presentation:
“The second part of the innings was the best I ever played. In the first part, I was not timing it very well. I took my time, respected the bowlers, took singles and got into a rhythm and then I started to play my shots in the second half. I enjoy my shots but I come back to the present after I play those shots. It automatically happens, when I focus on my skills and watch the ball and react. Sometimes I lose my wicket also, so I just play the same way.”
However, Samson denied a single or even a possible double on the offer of the second-last ball and backed himself to clear the fence off the last. But destiny wasn’t meant to be. In another wide delivery executed well by Arshdeep, Samson offered the right shot with the right elevation but not enough distance. Deepak Hooda, another batsman doing extremely well earlier on, held Samson at the extra-cover fence to complete a relieving win for the Punjab Kings, their first in the new outfit. It was one of those rare days that an unfathomable knock ended up in a losing cause. Two of the best batting performances that could’ve been were sported bared and bold at Wankhede and it was the more fortunate of the two coming off with a win.
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) April 12, 2021
Nonetheless, the game of cricket was as complete and as exciting as it could get. In the first innings, the likes of Rahul and Gayle got off to a flier targeting bowlers well and ensuring a good run-rate on a typical Wankhede wicket from the word go. They stitched a crucial stand at the top of the order before Gayle departed to a brilliant catch diving-forward by Ben Stokes. Rahul was joined by Hooda in the middle and the gear only looked to have gone higher. Hooda, having more than just one thing to prove, blistered through at No.4 hitting the ball at will and picking his shots to perfection. Hooda brought up his 50 of just 20 balls before getting dismissed in the 18th over on 64 (28). He had done his bit to the utmost perfection and had allowed Rahul and Punjab to reach 221, a presumable safe total to defend. Rahul’s 91 still remained a highlight of Punjab’s innings in what seemed to be one of their best performances with the bat in the last few seasons.
Other than the batting stalwarts from the game, there remained two talking points. One, largely associated by fielding from both sides and the other about the two young left-arm pacers turning heads. Both Punjab and Rajasthan dropped a few catches and missed crucial moments in the field to allow the opposition to capitalize better with the bat. It was arguably the only disappointing aspect of the game, and something either team will look to improve on in the future. Having said, the other aspect that brought in a lot of positivity is the performance of the two young left-arm pacers – Chetan Sakariya for Rajasthan and Arshdeep Singh for Punjab. In a game that saw almost 450 runs being scored, the two only went at around 8 an over also picking up three crucial wickets each. They lived up to the IPL motto of ‘Where Talent Meets Opportunity, making the most of what they had.
Overall, a great game of cricket with a nail-biting finish, one we all love to see as ardent cricket fans. Needless to say, it is only the first of many more such games to come this season.