By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
IT WAS A run feast for the cricket lovers as a series of fours and sixes rained in the UAE on a relaxed Sunday evening. In a high-scoring thriller, Rajasthan Royals edged past Kings XI Punjab by four wickets with three balls to spare in the Dream11 Indian Premier League match at the Sharjah Cricket ground.
Chasing a daunting target of 224 at an average of more than 12 runs per over, Rajasthan Royals crossed the finish line in the last over, making it the highest-ever chase in the history of IPL.
Opener Sanju Samson, skipper Steve Smith and all-rounder Rahul Tewatia produced stroke filled half-centuries to help Royals to a record shattering win.
In pursuit of the mammoth chase, Royals needed to get off the blocks quickly. They did just that despite the early loss of Jos Butler (4). Samson and Smith accelerated from the word go and did not take their feet off the pedal.
Smith led from the front and hit 50 (27 balls, 7×4, 2×6) to lay the solid foundation for a terrific chase. Samson continued to fire from the other end. The wicketkeeper-batsman cracked 85 off just 42 balls which included four boundaries and seven sixes. It was Samson’s second match-winning knock after his blistering hundred against the Chennai Super Kings in the first match.
Tewatia (53: 31 balls, 7×6) turned the match on its head when he pummelled five sixes off Sheldon Cottrell in the 18th over. It was an incredible turnaround for the 27-year-olds southpaw, who was a few overs earlier, struggling to get going especially against young leggie Ravi Bishnoi.
After man-of-the-match Samson’s departure, Tewatia took the centre stage to get the RR over the line. He slammed his maiden IPL fifty with a six off Shami. Jofra Archer once again played a little important cameo of 13 not out off just three balls. The English all-rounder smashed two sixes off M. Shami in the penultimate over, which took his side closer to win. Tom Curran hit the winning boundary when two were needed from four balls, much to the jubilation in the RR camp.
Earlier, in-form Mayank Agarwal hammered his maiden century to power Kings XI Punjab to a huge total of 223 for 2 after being put in to bat. It was an absolute carnage as opener Agarwal pummelled 106 off just 50 balls to complete his first IPL century. The Bangalore-based cricketer pounded ten fours and seven sixes to make good use of the comparatively smaller Sharjah ground.
Along with Agarwal, Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul also continued his golden form to slam 69 off 54 balls. The last-match here cracked seven boundaries and a six during his yet another fantastic knock.
Agarwal’s ton is now the second fastest century by an Indian batsman in the IPL. Openers Rahul and Agarwal brought up the third highest opening partnership in the history of the IPL when they added 183 runs for the first wicket against RR.
Sunrisers Hyderabad openers Jonny Bairstow and David Warner broke the record for highest opening partnership last season as they put up an opening stand of 185 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn held the record for an opening stand of 184 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Gujarat Lions in 2017.
With this win, RR went up to the second spot with four points to their credit, while Kings XI Punjab remained with a couple of points from three matches.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 223 for 2 in 20 overs (Mayank Agarwal 106, KL Rahul 69, Nicholas Pooran 25 not out, Glenn Maxwell 13 not out; Ankit Rajpoot 1-39, Tom Curran 1-44) lost to Rajasthan Royals 226 for 6 in 19.3 overs (Sanju Samson 85, Rahul Tewatia 53, Steve Smith 50, Jofra Archer 13 not out, Robin Uthappa 9, Tom Curran 4 not out; Mohammed Shami 3-53, Murugan Ashwin 1-16, James Neesmam 1-40) by 4 wickets. Man-of-the-match: Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals).