Rajasthan Royals (RR) VS Punjab Kings (PBKS) takes us back to the wild chase in 2020, where RR chased down a mighty score of 223. Crazy adventures follow between the teams this year, with Sanju Samson leading RR and KL Rahul, PBKS. With Jofra Archer injured, RR finds their replacement in Chris Morris. The chase gave the audience an edge to the seat. The batting pitch at Wankhede favoured pacers, expected to bowl effective bouncers in their early overs. Chasing would have been the ideal decision for RR, but was it enough?
RR watches as Punjab puts up an enormous score of 221 at the loss of 6 on the board. With all might and power, they chased them down till 217 but lost by four runs, unlike the competition the previous year. ArshDeep, the left-arm pacer from PKSB, hauled 3 wickets along with Chetan Sakariya from RR. Sanju Samson’s impressive 119 off 63 balls as a debut captain still couldn’t get the win they wanted. Match stars also include Deepak Hooda, who scored 64 off of just 28 balls and KL Rahul, who stretched to a mighty 90 in 50 balls. The collective 105 runs from these two batsmen took PBKS closer to victory.
PBKS opens with KL Rahul, captain and Mayank Agarwal, right-handed batsman. RR, keeping in mind the nature of the pitch, send in pacers. Knowingly, C Sakariya takes Mayank, his first wicket in the league, in the 2nd over with just 22 on the board. Wicketkeeper Samson catches him right at the outside off. With his dismissal enters the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle! Faster, Chris Morris initiates his overs giving way to an outside-off boundary, missing Ben Stokes at the slip. Gayle refuses on taking quick singles, agrees on some edgy ones, though, but puts off his sway for a while, opening his bat only at 4.4 overs, hitting the boundary. The powerplay ends with 47 at the loss of 1. Of the many missed catches in the game, one is by Ben Stokes who lets the ball hit by Gayle pass for a 4 after crossing the covers. Closely followed, Tewatia also misses the mid-delivery to Gayle, who heads the ball towards him. 9th over sets the platform for a 50-run partnership between Gayle and Rahul.
Riyan Parag, right-arm leg break bowler, finally takes down Gayle. Ben Stokes stoops low and takes the intended mid-on catch at long-on. PBKS ends the 10th over with their second wicket. The match sees a gamechanger when Deepak Hooda, an understated player in the IPL and International Cricket, leaves the dugout. Just as he comes, Rahul hits a maximum with Hooda following his own set of boundaries and maximums on RR. The 13th over also looks at Rahul’s 22nd IPL half-century with an effortless 6. Hooda didn’t have intentions to stop and goes on to hit three sixes in a row, bringing 150 to the team. While initially, it seemed like long-off was his territory, he later proves to be exceptionally good at various other shots. Just shots before his 50, Stokes and Buttler miss Hooda’s catch, who sent the ball high up to Rahman’s delivery. It cost the team a fortune, or may I say, win?
Showering the team with boundaries and sixes, Hooda doesn’t lose his shine even with fasters around. With a free hit adding up, he tops the plate of runs for PKBS by getting another 4 for the team. The magnificent 100 run partnership for Rahul and Hooda vanishes, with Morris getting Hooda’s wicket. Riyan Parag gets hold of the catch and dismisses Hooda just like Stokes did Gayle. Pooran enters, just to leave the field in time.
Morris gets another! Sakariya strikes everyone with his spring-like catch. Pooran ducks trying to hit uppishly at short fine leg, leaving PBKS at 201 with a loss of 4. The review takes a bit of time, but everyone is stunned by the young talent of Sakariya.
Shahrukh Khan replaces Pooran, S Gopal misses his catch. No ball and a wide give the extras to PBKS. Rahul goes on to top those with a four. Shahrukh opens his bat for a 4 in the deep fine leg! Rahul begins at death with a 4 over the covers. Following that, Tewatia jumps over the boundary and dives back into the field to take KL Rahul at mid-wicket. He goes off at 91 runs in 50 balls. Grand six overturned into a wicket at the hands of Rahul Tewatia. Richardson comes to replace Rahul and ducks, ending the innings by giving his wicket to Sakariya. Morris takes the catch giving Sakariya his 3-wicket haul.
The daunting target of 221 didn’t scare off RR because they had done this before, and they were confident enough to pull it off this time. They open with Ben Stokes and Manan Vora. With Rahul, Hooda and Shami gathered around, it seemed like the chaos would cancel the chances of a catch, but contrarily Stokes gets dismissed at the hands of Shami, who bowls and catches him. Like RR, PBKS doesn’t field at its best. Murugan Ashwin drops Vohra’s catch at the third man, almost catches it and then loses hold. Samson gets hit at the knee by Shami’s faster but gets back in power and hits two 4s in the over, crossing the covers and past the mid-wicket. However, the 4th overwatches Vora to go back to the dressing room while he gives his ball right to the bowler Arshdeep Singh. Jos Buttler replaces him. Meredith gets sweats it out with Buttler’s 4 boundaries. In all four directions, Buttler covers the field!
Powerplay ends with RR having 59 at a loss of 2.
However, his era ended when Jhye Richardson’s yorker works the magic. BOWLED! Dube replaces Buttler and begins with a 4 but slugs off with barely any runs. All this while, Samson stands consistent and keeps filling the team’s pocket with boundaries and maximums. With pressure building up, Samson tries to cover the void with a boundary and six, but the lone wolf becomes victim to the umpire’s signal of LBW out. His confidence makes him wear his helmet even during the review. The decision overturns but Shivam Dube’s assistance was quite critical to make the equation work. In the 13th over, Dube goes back for good at the hands of Arshdeep and Hooda. Hooda gets into action by catching the probable six at long-off.
Riyan Parag takes over his position as a striker, establishing a short but valuable partnership with Samson. During his tenure, he served the team with critical 4s and 6s. Samson, on the other hand, doesn’t act any less. However, his story ends with Rahul catching Parag right behind on Shami’s short. Tewatia comes in, but alas! goes off at the hands of Meredith, the faster. Rahul waves Rahul goodbye with his catch. The last two overs required RR to get 21 runs. Chris Morris, the highest-paid player in the league for 2021 joins Samson. Samson hits a six and they manage to get 8 runs from the over.
With this, comes the death over. 6 balls. 13 runs. Beginning with singles, RR gets to 3 balls and 10 runs. Just then, Samson hits a six! But sadly, the next ball goes dot. All that could make RR win was a winning six by Samson! He tosses it in the air, pinning hopes of millions and his own eleven. Samson was positive it went overboard, but the ball was within the rope and in the hands of Deepak Hooda. Disheartening as it is, to watch one man carry 119 runs on his back with a total of 217 for the team still loses the match. With sweat gleaming over the debut captain’s face, we also see a gleam in his eyes that highlight his determination. If not today, RR might see another day of victory.
On the other hand, PBKS won by 4 runs and celebrates the glamorous moment that gave them a head start to the league. KL Rahul and the team look forward to a series of unfathomable excitement.