A high scoring thriller was in store for fans on Monday at the Wankhede Stadium, as the Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings played out a game which had in excess of 400 runs. The game came tantalizingly close thanks to a Sanju Samson century, but ultimately Deepak Hooda and KL Rahul’s efforts with the bat proved enough as Punjab Kings started their 2021 VIVO Indian Premier League campaign with a win.
Batting first on the night, the experienced duo of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul settled in immediately, getting a boundary apiece in the very first over. Their partnership however didn’t last too long, as Agarwal nicked one to the keeper shortly after, giving Royals debutant Chetan Sakariya his maiden IPL wicket.
New man Chris Gayle though ensured the flow of runs remained steady for Punjab Kings, as he smacked two boundaries to end the powerplay at 46/1. With the field restrictions lifted, Rajasthan introduced spin into the attack with Shreyas Gopal, but the leggie leaked 12 runs in his first over.
Punjab Kings’ batsmen continued to pile on the runs, as Ben Stokes became the recipient of the first six of the evening, a mighty heave on the leg side off Chris Gayle’s willow. The Universe Boss then latched onto the leg spin of Rahul Tewatia to get his second six of the evening, leaving the team at 82/1 after nine overs.
Post the timeout, Riyan Parag induced a breakthrough as Gayle mistimed his shot and found Stokes in the deep. However, Captain Punjab made sure the run rate didn’t take a hit, as he hammered Tewatia over his head for a straight six to get the team score past 100.
Rahul repeated that shot two overs later against Shivam Dube, getting to his 23rd IPL fifty. New batsman Deepak Hooda too joined the act, as he ended that Dube over with two more sixes. The 25-year-old was just getting warmed up, as he continued his carnage against Gopal, dismantling him with three huge sixes.
Hooda started the 16th over with another maximum, as he too quickly got his half century, getting there off just 20 balls. With four overs to go, the score read 172/2, as Punjab lined themselves up for a grandstand finish. The all-rounder added three consecutive boundaries in the 17th over, but ended up finding the fielder when he tried a fourth big hit, and had to walk back after a well made cameo of 64.
With Hooda back in the hut, Rahul began playing the big shots, scoring two sixes off Chris Morris’ last over to cross the 2000 run mark for his franchise. The Punjab skipper added two more quick boundaries in the final two overs, but a brilliant catch in the deep by Tewatia meant it wouldn’t be back-to-back IPL hundreds at the Wankhede for Rahul. Nevertheless, Punjab Kings finished the innings strong at 221/6.
In this high scoring game, the turning point came in the penultimate over of the chase as Punjab Kings’ Riley Meredith managed to redeem himself after three bad overs by picking up a wicket, conceding just eight runs and putting his team in a strong position.
In reply, Punjab Kings got off to the perfect start with the ball, as Mohammed Shami sent Stokes packing without a single run being added to the scoreboard. Things got worse for the Royals, as their other opener Manan Vohra was out caught and bowled Arshdeep Singh in his very first over, leaving the chasing side at 30/2 after four.
New man Jos Buttler though kept Rajasthan in the hunt, as he welcomed debutant Riley Meredith with four straight boundaries. Sanju Samson added to that run kitty, getting two fours of Arshdeep’s second over to end the powerplay at 59/2.
Punjab Kings bowlers managed to pull the scoring rate back in the next two overs, and the pressure yielded a wicket as Buttler was knocked over by a well disguised slower ball yorker by Jhye Richardson. Rajasthan skipper Samson though remained solid, as he continued his fearless batting, targeting the pace of Meredith. He hit the Aussie for two sixes and a four, as he got to his fifty in the 11th over.
In a bid to up the ante, the Royals gave new batsman Shivam Dube the license to play his shots, but the experiment didn’t last long as the southpaw was caught in the deep by Hooda to leave the chasing side at 128/4 after 13 overs.
Despite losing wickets, Rajasthan weren’t going down without a fight as Riyan Parag started his innings with a four and a six off the bowling of Shami. Samson at the other end too didn’t show signs of slowing down, as he struck a six and a four off Richardson’s penultimate over.
The runs continued to flow as Parag latched onto that final Murugan Ashwin over, devouring 20 runs off it to push his team’s score to 174/4 after 16. Shami however provided some respite for the Kings, as he ended Parag’s 25 run cameo with a well directed short ball.
Samson was still the bane for Punjab Kings, as he tonked Richardson for two fours and a six to become the first centurion of IPL 2021. With two overs to go, the chasing side all of a sudden needed merely 21, but Meredith redeemed himself as he picked up Tewatia while conceding just eight runs.
With 13 needed of the last over, Samson got a six over the infield early on to put Rajasthan in pole position. However, Arshdeep Singh held his nerve to consistently bowl at the blockhole, and that ultimately got Punjab Kings a five run win as Samson was dismissed of a very last ball trying to hit a six.