G KRISHNAN – SJFI Member
MUMBAI: Was I the only one who thought how nice it would have been had Rahul Tewatia got out in the first ball of the 17th over and not Sanju Samson for a magnificent 85 off 42 balls?
Tewatia, who walked in at the fall of Steve Smith’s wicket in the last ball of the ninth over, was a surprise choice at that position. Especially when frontline batsman Robin Uthappa was padded up in the dug-out and had better pinch-hitters in Jofra Archer and Tom Curran in the line-up.
Being a left-hander, perhaps, made the Rajasthan Royals coaching staff to send Tewatia ahead to keep the left-right combination going and upset the Kings XI Punjab bowlers’ line.
But, as it turned out, the 27-year-old allrounder could not put bat to ball in his first 21 balls, scoring just 14 runs including one six. Before that six off the 20th delivery he faced, he was sitting on six runs from 15 balls and 8 from 19 balls, trying all sorts of things and only wasting deliveries. The pressure was mounting on Sanju Samson.
“Those were the worst 20 balls I have ever faced,” Tewatia admitted after the match in Sharjah.
That’s not what you want from a batsman, especially when chasing a stiff target of 224. After some struggle, Tewatia transformed himself from a villain to hero in a matter of eight deliveries, scoring 36 in them, all sixes including five off a Sheldon Cottrell over. When he fell in the last ball of the 19th over, RR needed only two runs to win.
“What we saw him at the nets is what you saw him out in the middle, hit the ball in the middle and hit the ball a long way,” RR captain Steve Smith said at the post-match presentation.
Hailing from Haryana, Tewatia is not known for his batting exploits as much as he is known for his leg-spin. His highest IPL score from 21 previous matches before Sunday night was 24, at No. 7. His only half-century in T20 before Sunday’s blistering knock was an unbeaten 59 for Haryana against Chhattisgarh in the 2018-19 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in Cuttack. This knock came from 20 balls with five sixes and as many fours at No. 7.
Tewatia just pushed the remarkable Mayank Agarwal 106 and his 183-run partnership, Samson’s attractive 85 and Smith’s cracking 50 into the backseat.
Samson would not have minded had Tewatia been named Man-of-the-match. He deserved it. It is not often does one sees matches being won or lost in just one over of brutal attack.