There were several obvious talking points coming into Royal Challengers Bangalores away game at Jaipur. The contest would put two of the most powerful,if not the biggest,hitters in opposite camps. Chris Gayle looked subdued in his game against Mumbai,but his record-breaking unbeaten 175 came less than a week back.
The Rajasthan Royals had their own belligerent,Shane Watson. The Australian came into the game with scores of 101 and 98 not out.
Also,there was the other matter of Rajasthans James Faulkner,the bearer of the violet cap,bowling to Gayle,the bearer of the orange cap,to look forward to. As it happened,none of the big name showdowns really come to pass,but the game still went to the wire.
It was wicket-keeper batsman Sanju Samson,promoted to one-drop by Rajasthan,that eventually played a match winning hand with his 41-ball 63 as the home side sneaking in a four-wicket win of the penultimate ball of the 40th over of the game.
Chasing Bangalores 171/6,Dravid came out to open the batting with Ajinkya Rahane,keeping Watson back despite the asking rate. Like in the previous game,Rahane struggled early and went cheaply,making a seven-ball two.
Then came the bigger surprise. The false start not withstanding,it was the 18-year old Samson,who walked in next,and not Watson.
On his IPL debut,which before Monday was the only occasion he had batted previously in the tournament,Samson had hit a vital 23-ball 27 in a low scoring game against Punjab to lead his side to a win.
This was a pressure situation too. Maybe it was the cushion of having the likes of Watson,Brad Hodge and Owais Shah in the dug out that prompted Dravids decision, but another wicket at that stage would have meant the hitters would have had too little time to get their eye in.
Samson,walking in after Rahane and Dravid had just played out a maiden,smashed Vinay Kumar for consecutive deliveries off his first two balls.
The youngster favoured the on-side for his boundaries when the bowlers were too straight,but was also adept at lofting the ball inside-out. Vinay Kumar was struck for two more boundaries in his next over and when Murali Karthik was introduced,Samson smashed him for successive sixes over extra cover. By then he was joined by Watson and the wicket-keepers onslaught ensured that the Australian could play himself in.
By the time he was dismissed trying to heave Rampaul on the on side,the equation had come down to 56 off 34,and Rajasthans specialists proved equal to the task. Watson made 41 off 31 and Hodges cameo (18-ball 32) ensured the side has now won all five home games this season.
Brief scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 171 for six in 20 ovs (C Gayle 34,V Kohli 32; S Watson 3/22) lost to Rajasthan Royals (S Samson 63,S Watson 41; R Rampaul) 2/28)