This was by far the best game that the Rajasthan Royals have played in recent times. As a Rajasthan Royals fan, I had the most fun I have ever had watching an IPL game. Of course, the fact that I was on TV (read more about that here) would have something to do with that! It was a truly unique experience anyway, and for RR to perform like this, just made it that much more special.
As soon as I came on TV, my phone stated buzzing with notifications from my classmates and from relatives, and it was kind of difficult to focus enough on the game. But I will try my best to recall as much as I can from this extraordinary game. Firstly, if you haven’t watched the match, RR scored 217 runs. Let me remind you that this is without Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. Just think about how crazy this RR batting unit will look once these 2 join the team. It will easily be the best in the league.
Now for the game. Steve Smith surprised everyone when he walked out to open the innings alongside Yashasvi Jaiswal. Yashasvi was expected to play and open, but nobody expected Smithy to start the innings off. Robin Uthappa was deemed to be the second opener, but instead he took up a finishing role. Anyhow, the opening pair of Yashasvi and Smith did not get off to a good start. They were scoring at lesser than a run-a-ball, and did not seem too comfortable at the pitch. Looking at them, you would have guessed the score would be 160, if they were lucky. Soon enough, Yashasvi lost his wicket. RR seemed to have embarrassed themselves with this new opening pair strategy, but then came the gamechanging partnership.
Sanju Samson and Steve Smith were at the crease now. They started off slowly, and continued the slow run rate. But then came on CSK’s spinners. And something happened inside of Sanju Samson . It’s like he was suddenly transported into a game of Stick Cricket. Sanju was hitting every single ball for a six, and that is an understatement. . He picked on Chawla and Jadeja to no extent. He was literally hitting sixes for fun. Like a video game, he really was expected to hit a six on every ball. He made this Sharjah pitch look like a national highway, and this Sharjah stadium like a small little auditorium. Easily the best innings by him since that century against RCB. Steve Smith supported him well at the other end, also hitting a few sixes here and there, but mostly keeping things nice and steady.
The dream partnership was in full flow when tragedy struck. The pacers were brought back on, and Sanju lost his wicket going for another six against Lungi Ngidi. Since RR were already at more than a 100 runs in just 9 overs, David Miller was promoted up the order to deal some more damage. But as luck would have it, Miller had to depart before facing even a single ball, because of an unfortunate run out. With 2 quick dismissals, CSK’s comeback had started.
The run rate started to decline. Robin Uthappa came in, and looked uneasy right from the start. Steve Smith rotated the strike well, and took every opportunity for a boundary, but he didn’t get the right support from the other end, as Uthappa made a sorry 5 from 9, before Piyush Chawla ended his misery. CSK’s comeback was truly in motion, and Steve Smith and Rahul Tewatia lost their wickets in quick succession.
A score of 220 which once looked almost certain, now looked very distant and unimaginable. But then walked in the Nostradamus of the 21’st century. Jofra Archer was on strike, and it was the very last over left. RR’s score was a respectable, but not dominative 186. Known for his bowling prowess, Archer wasn’t exactly expected to churn out a six, then another,and then another, and then another one. But that’s exactly what he did! The best death bowler in the world Jofra Archer, turns out to be a brilliant death over batsman too! I mean, even the best finishers in the world haven’t ever been able to hit 4 sixes in a row like Archer did with so much ease and elegance. And of course he had a tweet for this too (pictured below)! Archer propelled RR’s score to a gargantuan score of 217, which was well deserved for the performances of Sanju, Smith, and of course Archer.
RR definitely did have the upper hand after the first innings, but that doesn’t mean that the game was over. Sharjah is a batting-friendly pitch and a small ground. So anything could have happened. But RR’s bowlers deserve all the credit in the world for what they did today. The scorecard tells you that they conceded 200 runs, but it doesn’t tell you that they never let the CSK batsmen develop a momentum, that they always struck at crucial junctures, that they could easily have lost control at the death and blundered the game, that they were the difference between the two sides.
Think about it. CSK had a Sanju Samson (a more slow-starting version, though) in Faf Du Plessis. CSK had a Jofra Archer (the batsman) in MS Dhoni. CSK had a Steve Smith (albeit a slightly weaker one) in Shane Watson. What they didn’t have was a Rahul Tewatia, who took 3 wickets while being extremely economical compared to CSK’s spinners. What they didn’t have was a Tom Curran, who despite being a partimer held his nerve to bowl two death overs and hold dangerous hitters like Dhoni and Du Plessis to just singles and doubles. What they didn’t have was a Jofra Archer (the bowler) who was by far, the best bowler in the game today from both the sides, because of his unreal economy rate and death bowling repertoire. So, I’d like to salute the unsung heroes of RR’s victory today, their bowling unit.
I really think that this IPL can be special for the Royals. You can call me biased or whatever, but I am locking down my prediction that RR will make the playoffs this season. Here’s hoping for a season to remember forever!
My Prediction Counter – 3-1