Updated: April 13, 2021 2:28:13 pm
The fourth match of IPL 2021 produced some sensational hitting, as well as sloppy fielding that saw six catches being dropped. Chasing 222, Sanju Samson’s breath-taking 63-ball 119 – punctuated by 12 boundaries and 7 sixes – was not enough as Rajasthan Royals went down to Punjab Kings by four runs in a high-octane encounter.
Samson’s effort in vain
On nine out of 10 occasions, Sanju Samson would have backed himself to deposit Arshdeep Singh over the long-off boundary. Perhaps, fatigue got the better of him on Monday. Samson was batting on 119 off 62 deliveries, when he ended up slicing it to Deepak Hooda — the man who had set it up for Punjab Kings in the first innings. The result was a 4-run loss for Rajasthan Royals, capping a tense, manic match that saw superlative stroke-play from both sides.
However, spare a thought for Samson, who marked his IPL captaincy debut with a wonderful century, but couldn’t take his team past the finish line. Samson had begun IPL 2020 with a bang, shellacking two power-packed performances — a 32-ball 74 against Chennai Super Kings and a 42-ball 85 versus Kings XI Punjab — before it all went downhill for him as Rajasthan Royals finished at the bottom of the points table. Another promising season was nipped in the bud.
But in 2021, being elevated as Royals captain didn’t seem to fluster Samson. If anything, it has only unshackled him to continue with his brand of free-flowing, aggressive cricket.
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 12, 2021
A 222-run chase against Punjab Kings was always going to be arduous. More so, after Royals lost Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler inside the first eight overs. But Samson never panicked, rode his luck – enjoying two dropped catches – to launch an innings of skill, flair and sustained, out-of-the world hitting. The 26-year-old brought up his ton in just 54 deliveries, carving out a four, six and a four off consecutive deliveries from Australian pacer Jhye Richardson.
When in full flight, Samson is a sight to behold. Unlike most modern batsmen, he doesn’t sashay down the track, but stays still in his crease, and uses his sinewy forearms to unfurl that lovely free-flowing swing of the bat to smash spinners and pacers with ease. If the Punjab Kings bowlers pitches it up, he cleared his front leg and deposited it over long-off.
— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) April 12, 2021
From 95/3 after 10 overs, Royals raced to 154/4 in 15 overs, and 209/6 after the 19th over. In this period, Samson took his personal tally from 41 off 30 to 112 off 58. “I don’t have words to explain my feelings. Would have loved to finish it off for my team. I don’t think I could have done better than that. I thought I timed it well for a six (last ball of the match) but somehow… Catches go down and good catches were also taken. It’s part of the game,” Samson said after the loss.
Deepak Hooda was greeted by loud, manic cheers and thunderous applause from his Punjab Kings team-mates, following his 28-ball 64. The staggering assault provided ample proof of the 26-year-old’s prodigious talent as a stroke-player. But those who have watched him in domestic cricket will not be surprised.
For all the splendour and visceral thrill this knock provided, it’s scarcely believable to note that three months ago, Hooda’s cricketing career was at the crossroads. Ahead of this year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he stormed out of the bio-bubble following a spat with Baroda captain Krunal Pandya, which eventually resulted in the state association suspending him for indiscipline. In his letter to the association, Hooda had alleged that Krunal had used abusive language that left him ‘demoralised and depressed’.
— Deepak Hooda (@HoodaOnFire) April 12, 2021
That he has managed to orchestrate such a turnaround in such a short span of time is testament to Hooda’s temperament and mental fortitude. At the Wankhede Stadium, the youngster was promoted to No.4, ahead of the mercurial Nicholas Pooran, which gave him time to get his eye in. In the company of captain KL Rahul (91 off 50 balls), Hooda blossomed. There was a series of eye-catching shots, like the manner in which he biffed Chris Morris over the mid-wicket fence for a maximum, or the ease with which he simply extended his arms to smoke leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal for a straight six. Hooda’s essay was a game-changer.
Walking out to bat at the half-way stage with Punjab’s score reading 89/2, his attacking instincts not only eased the pressure off Rahul, but also gave a fillip to the run rate. Resultantly, their 105-run alliance in 7.4 overs propelled Punjab to 221/6. In many ways, Hooda fulfilled the role that the team management had expected Glenn Maxwell to perform last year, only for the Aussie to fail miserably.
Hooda has been an IPL regular since 2015. However, in 69 games he has batted down the order, which hardly gave him opportunities to stamp his presence. He had conjured another blinder — an unbeaten 30-ball 62 — for Punjab against Chennai Super Kings last season. They eventually lost that match, but Hooda signed off with his reputation enhanced.
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