It is a simple theory of the T20 format that the team which hits more sixes often wins but it was mission impossible for the Royals who needed 51 off 18 balls after the best batsman was back in pavilion after scoring 85 runs of just 42 balls under tremendous pressure of the highest run chase in the history of IPL. But, we will come to Samson later.
Keep the faith
When Rahul Tewatia went to bat his Twitter followers stood at 637 and by the time he finished his knock it already had crossed over 10K followers within an hour!
Tewatia’s story will forever be etched in the memory not for a truly staggering innings but how he kept his faith alive during the toughest run chase ever of the IPL.
This is going to be part of folklore as there never had been such a struggle for a batsman before playing such a stunning blinder in the latter half of his innings. Tewatia was barely managing to connect the ball (his first 8 runs came off in 19 balls) after being promoted what seemed like a tactical blunder.
So much so, that a seemingly frustrated Sanju Samson stopped taking singles in the later stage of his partnership with Tewatia. However, when all seemed lost, Tewatia found such an inspiration that he hit five sixes off Sheldon Cottrell who was one of the best bowlers of the IPL before this match.
“That was some chase! Tewatia that was some sort of display against Cottrell. We got an idea about the conditions here in the last game. It's a small ground, we always thought if we have wickets in the shed we always have a chance. Samson is hitting sixes at will at the moment. We saw in the nets that he was hitting the ball like he did in that over to Cottrell,” said an elated captain Smith after the match.
Rahul Tewatia has been playing IPL since 2014 and has played just 7 first class game so far in his career with a modest record. However, Royals are known to gamble with the under-dogs and they acquired Tewatia from Delhi Capitals during the pre-season trade before the December auction.
They trusted him when no team or coach perhaps ever would. But then, it is such a memorable story worth a Bollywood movie. “ Now, I'm better,” said a much-relieved Tewatia in his first interaction after the game.
“Those were the worst first 20 balls that I have ever played. I was hitting the ball very good in the nets, so I had belief in myself and kept going. I was not hitting the ball well initially; I saw in the dug-out, everybody was curious because they know that I can hit the ball long. I thought I had to believe in myself. It was a matter of one six, after that, I got going. Five in an over went amazing. Coach sent me to hit sixes off the leg-spinner, but unfortunately I didn't hit him. Ultimately, I hit off the other bowlers,” said Tewatia who became super hit overnight after those hits.
Back to back Man of the Match
Sanju Samson was never adjudged Man of the Match in two back to back matches in his IPL career. KXIP spinner Glenn Maxwell was the best bowler in the match (his two overs had cost an measly 8 runs) until Samson decided a breathtaking assault on him.
He was so sure of his prowess that he kept the strike to himself during the entire third over of the Australian and hit him for three sixes and 21 runs put the life back into Royals chase which was going downhill after Smith’s (50 off 27 balls) departure.
“ I have been hitting it well for the past one year. So I was just sticking to my routine and feeling confident. I am happy to win a few games,” said Samson after the match without showing any kind of emotion.
Chase of a life-time
The last time a team chased 215+ runs in the IPL was when Adam Gilchrist and VVS Laxman were opening for Deccan Chargers, Rohit Sharma was yet to play for the Mumbai Indians and Pakistanis were then allowed to take part in the tournament!
Indeed, it’s been that long since a chase like this happened in IPL. And, incidentally, it was Royals way back in 2008 as well against the Chargers. On Sunday, Royals did the unthinkable by scoring the most runs (86) in the last 5 overs (16-20) to win a chase in IPL.
In fact, only Trinbago Knight Riders’ (90 runs in last 5 overs) v St.Lucia Stars in 2018) is better in the history of all T20s across the globe. “We did a lot of things right, but such things do happen, great game of cricket, we have to give it to them (Rajasthan Royals). The game keeps you humble all the time, I honestly did think we had the game in our pocket,” said a stunned rival captain KL Rahul who shared a 183 run partnership earlier with the centurion Mayank Agarwal (106 off 50 balls with 7 sixes) .
The contest was always going to be decided by the team which was expected to hit more sixes. The two grounds in Abu Dhabi and Dubai had witnessed 65 sixes in seven games of the IPL 2020 but the Sharjah stadium’s first match alone had produced 33 sixes. Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals once again saw 29 sixes in total but this time KL Rahul’s team(11) were 'out-sixed' by Steven Smith’s(18) boys.
Save of the century!
Amidst all the talk of Samson, Tewatia and Agarwal, none will forget an incredible piece of fielding display in the game of cricket.
When Someone like Sunil Gavaskar who started playing first class cricket in the 60s and is still commentating in all formats of the game says that he has never seen anything like this on a cricket field, you have to believe him.
Doubtless, very few can claim that they have seen a better exhibition of fielding especially that of saving a run in cricket. Fittingly, the god of modern fielding, Jonty Rhodes himself took a bow when Nicholas Pooran, in a staggering display of athleticism and quick thinking, turned a certain six to just two runs! It is neither a six or a four or a catch or a wicket or even a celebration but you will never get tired of watching that kind of stunning display of fielding. Expect a million views in minutes on YouTube!(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)