Hindustan Times (Jammu)

Samson heartbreak in big chase

Skipper hits 119 off 63 balls but perishes off the final delivery as RR fall four runs shy of Punjab Kings’s 221

- Somshuvra Laha somshuvra. laha@ htlive. com

Sanju Samson can frustrate and thrill at the same time.

On Monday, he chose to do both, reversing an lbw decision before unleashing a devastatin­g flurry of sixes only to disappoint right at the brink of the game. With Rajasthan Royals needing five off two balls, he turned down an easy single. Last ball of the game, he holed out to Deepak Hooda at longoff.

Once again, Samson had flattered to deceive. He could have put to shade Deepak Hooda’s blitzkrieg of an innings with his century. KL Rahul’s class act too was almost overshadow­ed. The Punjab Kings captain has picked up from where he had left last season, gently nudging his team to another good total by playing the perfect anchor. He knew when to recede to the background and let Chris Gayle take over. And he emerged right when Punjab needed him to take them over the finishing line.

But Twenty20 is a fickle format where the barest of margins can make the difference. Rahul faced 50 balls, Samson 63. Rahul hit five sixes, Samson hit seven.

When you bat almost 20 overs, you almost always end up on the winning side. Luck too seemed to be on Samson’s side after Punjab Kings dropped him twice. But he undid that all with one kneejerk moment reaction. Once again an IPL match showed the overstated emphasis on sixes. When bowlers are taken to the cleaners as a rule of the game, big hits often define results. Monday’s game was another example why teams with abysmal Powerplay economy (Punjab averaged 11.2 while Royals averaged 11.6 last IPL) often provide the most thrills. For a long time, Royals just hung in there. Start of the 16th over, Royals needed 68 runs.

Enter a helmetless Riyan Parag, miscuing M Ashwin for a six before hitting him inside out for another over boundary.

That over, thanks to Samson’s first- ball six, yielded 20. But Mohammad Shami restored some balance next over by conceding just eight.

Arshdeep Singh was asked to bowl the last over but it was Shami’s craft that went a long way in controllin­g the damage and letting Deep Hooda savour his day. Why? Let’s wind back to January 9, 2021. A widely reported mail lands in the inbox of Baroda Cricket Associatio­n. In it, Deepak Hooda says he was abused by captain Krunal Pandya in front of other players while training in a secure bio-bubble ahead of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. “I am demoralise­d, depressed and under pressure,” read the mail. Hooda, Baroda’s vice-captain, walked out on his team after that altercatio­n on January 9 and was ultimately suspended for the entire season.

Fast forward to Wankhede Stadium on April 12, 2021. Rahul scores 91 off 50 balls. Chris Gayle churns 40 off 28. But they were still not the most captivatin­g acts of the day. On a brilliant batting surface, Rajasthan Royals bowlers received a hiding for hitting the wrong lengths but Hooda was a notch above the rest of his Punjab Kings mates, uncorking clean, crisp shots off balls that fell in his arc to produce a blistering knock of 64 of 28 balls. That’s a strike rate of 228.57, making Gayle’s (SR: 142) and even Rahul’s (182) look pedestrian in comparison.

Embedded with six sixes, Hooda’s innings is one of the reasons why the Indian Premier League continues to thrive as a breeding ground of some of the most sumptuous hitters of the game. Not one six was a miscue. Every shot came off the middle off his bat. Shivam Dube bowled a full toss, Hooda hoicked it over deep midwicket. Another fuller ball outside off and this time Hooda smoked Dube over cover.

Shreyas Gopal was at the wrong place at the wrong time, bearing brunt of that onslaught. He started with a flighted delivery that landed right in Hooda’s arc and he thumped it over long-off. Next six, Hooda bent back to get under the ball and sent it over square-leg.

Gopal was forced to go wider as a result but Hooda seemed to find his arc here as well, launching into a huge six over long-off. But most disdain was reserved for Chris Morris as Hooda flayed him over deep midwicket for his sixth six. When he brought up his fifty ( off 20 balls) with a single, Hooda quietly entered the record books as the only Punjab Kings batsman after Adam Gilchrist to hit at least six sixes in his first fifty. Gilchrist had hit seven in 2011.

Brief scores: Punjab Kings 221/6 (KL Rahul 91, Chris Gayla 40, Deepak Hooda 64; Chetan Sakariya 3/31, Chris Morris 2/41). Rajasthan Royals 217/7 (Sanju Samson 119, Jos Buttler 25, Shivam Dube 23, Riyan Parag 25; Mohammed Shami 2/33). Punjab Kings win by 4 runs.

 ?? BCCI ?? Rajasthan Royals’s Sanju Samson on way to becoming the first debutant skipper in IPL to hit a century.
BCCI Rajasthan Royals’s Sanju Samson on way to becoming the first debutant skipper in IPL to hit a century.

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