Rajasthan Royals 216 for 7 (Samson 74, Smith 69, Archer 27*, Sam Curran 3-33) beat Chennai Super Kings 200 for 6 (du Plessis 72, Watson 33, Dhoni 29*, Tewatia 3-37) by 16 runs
Sanju Samson, Steven Smith and Jofra Archer managed to out-hit Chennai Super Kings with 17 sixes between them as Rajasthan Royals opened their campaign with a win at Sharjah.
The tournament’s first 200-plus score was fueled by Samson’s 32-ball 74, Smith’s balanced 47-ball 69, and Archer’s four sixes in a row in the last over and proved to be too much for the Super Kings whose chase meandered into near-surrender in the middle overs before bursting to life at the end. Rahul Tewatia’s three wickets played a big role in that, but Royals’ defence was aided by the Super Kings’ experimental batting order and an ostensible lack of purpose in chase; by the time MS Dhoni came in, at No. 7, they needed to score at more than 16 an over. That proved too much on the night despite a late attack from Faf du Plessis.
Brand new Rajasthan, same old Samson
The area that the Royals really wanted to revamp at the auction was their opening partnership, but the experiment with Smith alongside debutant Yashasvi Jaiswal lasted a laboured 14 balls, in which they only managed to put on 11 trying to come to terms with what looked like a sluggish pitch. Jaiswal was out trying to pull one that gripped and got big on him.
And then, Samson, coming in at No. 3 made the early impressions of the pitch seem questionable. He did take a couple of attempts to get his pull shots right, but once he got to pace with the surface came two short-arm pulls to clear the shortest square boundaries in the tournament. It was the start of a torrent.
The Royals got to 54 for 1 in the Powerplay, and in the immediate over after, Samson took to Ravindra Jadeja’s quick, overpitched deliveries like they were throwdowns in training. Two sixes off his first two balls against him – one over long-on, one over long-off – started Samson off, and the exact feat was repeated against Piyush Chawla next over. Chawla, who was also hit straight off a full length, did try to pull his length back the next ball along with a wider line; even so, Samson produced one of his best shots of the night, reaching out to slap him over extra cover without even managing to get to the pitch of it.
That turned out to be the last real challenge until he got out. He completed a 19-ball fifty – equalling Owais Shah for the Royals’ second fastest one – and by the end of that over, which went for 28 including a Smith six, had five sixes in his last nine balls. The Royals went into the first time out 96 for 1 in eight overs. It took another three overs – with three more straight sixes off spin bowling that continued to be too full – before the partnership ended via a short ball from Lungi Ngidi that Samson could only chip to sweeper cover.
Six or nothing
By the end of the second-wicket stand, Smith had also found himself in while playing in his usual busy manner. He was reprieved at the long-off boundary, drilling one to Sam Curran who couldn’t hold on to the flat hit on his left. Smith also managed a cheeky ramp off Ngidi, falling over in to the off side while doing it. But those proved to be rare highlights in what proved a downturn in the innings.
Miller was run out without facing a ball on his Royals debut, caught short at the non-striker’s end as his bat plonked in the turf as he dived. Robin Uthappa, one of the those Royals bought at the auction, came in at No. 5 and managed only five off his nine balls. Sam Curran and the spinners had adjusted their lengths, just behind a good length, to bring some control to the Super Kings in the second half. Paradoxically, the pitch seemed to be difficult to score on if the scoring shots weren’t boundaries or sixes; until 19th over, the Royals only made 54 after Samson had fallen at 132 in 11.4 overs, and had lost Smith by then.
Then came what was probably one of Ngidi’s worst overs in his life; it started with a reversion to the overpitched length. On hand to take advantage in the last over was Jofra Archer, who pumped the first ball over the straight boundary. The next ball, a short one, ended up over the roof at midwicket. Following those were two more sixes – both of which also happened to be no-balls – and a wide to immediately follow them meant Ngidi had gone for 27 runs off 2 legal balls. To his credit, he conceded only three off the next four, but the second 30-run last over of this edition lifted Royals to 216 for 7.
Super Kings get stuck
Super Kings’ chase began with eight off the first two overs, no boundaries scored, and it turned out to be a precursor for the rest of the innings. The six-or-nothing theme stuck for them as well, and they did manage to more or less match the Royals’ powerplay effort. But just after their most fluent batsman on the night – Shane Watson – had struck four sixes and a four and looked set to take on the spinners, the plan fell apart. Legspinner Tewatia skid one on leg stump and Watson was bowled off his thigh, trying to pull him. M Vijay’s run-a-ball 21 hadn’t helped when he fell next over, and only the promoted Sam Curran’s 17 off 6 seemed to be taking Super Kings anywhere near their big target in the face of much better lengths from Royals’ spinners.
But Tewatia had him and Ruturaj Gaikwad stumped off consecutive deliveries, and Kedar Jadhav’s promotion meant Dhoni came in at No. 7 with 104 required off 38 balls.
du Plessis had struck at less than run-a-ball for 19 balls at that point, and was dropped at long-on by Riyan Parag off Tewatia. That catalysed a late six-hitting surge from him – and a 21-run over off Jaydev Unadkat. But his second fifty of the season, 72 off 37, came at the other end of Dhoni trudging to 10 off 13 before hitting his first six and turning it into three in a row in the last over. But the chase had already been mathematically closed off by Archer – with the ball in the 19th over, after he had done the work with the bat earlier.
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