No team had chased a target of 196 against Mumbai ever in the IPL and to expect that a struggling batting unit like Rajasthan Royals could do that was akin to day-dreaming.
However, when someone like Ben Stokes plays a dream innings of his IPL career (107 runs of just 60 balls with 14 fours and 3 sixes) and is complemented by an equally audacious knock by Sanju Samson (unbeaten 54 off just 31 balls with 4 fours and 3 sixes) then anything was possible.
Icing on the cake for the Royals’ 8-wicket victory against Mumbai Indians on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi was that they also have officially eliminated Chennai Super Kings from the play-off race.
“Sour and sweet to be honest - it took so long to get one for the team. We needed a result from today, so – it’s a good victory,” said Ben Stokes after getting his Man of the Match award.
Samson must have been happy to play a fine innings outside Sharjah for the first time in this season. “We have spent a good time out in the middle in the last three games, this was the best time with him, really enjoyed it. I was not looking at how many runs do we want or what the run-rate was,” said Samson after the match.
A fine bowling effort until the death overs
Earlier in the night, the trio of Jofra Archer (4 overs , 31 runs and 2 wickets), Shreyas Gopal (4 overs, 30 runs and 2 wickets) and Rahul Tewatia (4 overs and just 25 runs) had managed to keep formidable Mumbai batting in control. “We played some good cricket in the first half, the dropped chance proved to be costly, perhaps we ended up giving away another 40-45 runs, but it didn’t matter in the end,” said Royals’ skipper Steven Smith after the match in his post match chat with the host broadcaster.
Hardik’s audacious knock goes in vain
When death overs began, MI’s score was 117 runs for 4 wickets. RR knew that Mumbai is at its best in this phase and due to Hardik Pandya’s belligerent knock of unbeaten 60 in just 21 balls, they were looted of a total of 78 runs in last 30 balls.
Mumbai must have been shocked by dual assault from Stokes and Samson but they were also disappointed with their versatile bowling attack since only Jasprit Bumrah and Pollard could able to keep their economy rate around 9-9.50 runs per over.
“Our bowlers tried, but well played to the opposition. He (Hardik) went out and scored 60* off 21, an innings like that and we end up on the losing side, that's just tough luck,” said a disappointed stand-in-skipper Kieron Pollard as regular captain Rohit Sharma again missed the match due to his fitness issues.
Pandya scored 54 runs in 13 balls delivered by Ankit Rajput and Kartik Tyagi and perhaps deserved to be in the winning side.
(Vimal Kumar has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. The author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide can be reached @Vimalwa on Twitter) Follow our full coverage of IPL 2020 here.