Sharjah, Sep 28 | Fearless hard-hitting batsman Sanju Samson, who set up a thrilling four-wicket win for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab, gave all the credit to his genes – and called his father a “powerful man” – while Rahul Tewatia, who effectively sealed it, said he had the belief in himself to score the required runs under pressure.
At the end of the carnage that was the ninth match of the IPL, these two were players that were talked about more than the others were. If the match had taken the same route as the other two matches in which a team scored more than 200 runs this season, those two players would have been Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul.
Instead, it was Kerala’s Samson and Haryana’s Tewatia who stole the show. A century is not easy to overshadow in T20 cricket, but on Sunday, Mayank’s 106 off 50 balls ended up becoming an afterthought due to what Samson and Tewatia did.
Samson seemed to have decided to simply pick up from where he left on Tuesday against Chennai Super Kings at the same venue. That day, his 74 off 32 balls helped Rajasthan put up 216/7 that proved too much for Chennai to chase. On Sunday, he was tasked with helping his team chase down 224 – and that would mean breaking the record for the highest successful run chase in the IPL history.
It may be a tall order for most but Samson, who has been relentlessly banging on the door of the Indian limited overs team for well over two years, put his head down and went to work. He has a point to prove in this tournament, as was evident from his innings and what he said after the match.
“I did a lot of soul searching after being frustrated at trying stuff. So, I decided if I had 10 more years of cricket left in me, I want to go back and give my everything to these 10 years,” said Samson, straight from his heart. “My family is supportive of that. The power comes from the genes. My father is a very powerful man.”
For a while, Samson had able help at the other end in the form of his captain Steve Smith. However, after the latter departed for 50 off 27 balls, it momentarily became a one-man show. While Samson was making it look like the stadium is too small for a batsman of his standard, Tewatia was hardly able to get bat on ball.
Tewatia’s arrival at the crease prompted Rahul to throw the ball to his spinners. The 27-year-old first struggled to score against Glenn Maxwell, and then against Ravi Bishnoi. Images of Vijay Shankar’s nightmare in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy final between India and Bangladesh came to mind as Tewatia absorbed dot ball after dot ball. He had made just five runs off the first 13 balls he had faced and his first six came off the 20th.
However, the form Samson was in at the other end it looked like he could knock off 84 runs from 30 balls on his own if he was able to rotate the strike well enough. He hit three sixes in the 16th over of Maxwell to keep RR’s hopes alive but those were promptly dashed when he fell to Mohammed Shami off the first ball of the next over. He made 85 off 42 balls and it is the first time in his IPL career that he had scored fifties in consecutive matches.
Uthappa ended the Shami over with consecutive fours but that only meant that it was the struggling Tewatia coming on strike at the start of the 18th over.
Tewatia at this point was on 17 off 23 balls and very close to being labelled the villain of what could have a thrilling run chase. By the end of the next over, however, he had turned his innings into a fairy-tale. Sheldon Cottrell steamed in and gave him a bouncer to deal with early on and Tewatia pulled it over long leg. Cottrell went for another short-pitched delivery and Tewatia sent it over square. Then Cottrell pitched it up and Tewatia put it over long-off and he then sent the next ball, a wide full toss, over midwicket.
The images of Vijay Shankar at the Nidahas Trophy were now being replaced by those of Yuvraj Singh at the 2007 World T20. Tewatia missed out on the six sixes by one, being unable to connect the fifth ball. Then, the sixth, a wide length ball, was sent sailing over midwicket. Thirty runs from the over.
Tewatia would hit another six before finally falling to Shami but by then the wheels were rolling. Jofra Archer had joined the party and he saw RR through to an improbable target.
Tewatia, a leg-spinner, slammed seven sixes in his innings and no fours. It is the joint most sixes anyone has hit without a four. He scored just 17 runs off his first 23 balls and then smashed 36 in his next eight.
“They were the worst 20 balls I have ever played. I was hitting the ball really well in the nets so I had the belief in myself. [But] I was not hitting the ball well [on Sunday] initially. Then I saw in the dugout, everybody was curious because they know that I can hit the ball long. At once I thought that I have to believe in myself and it was a matter of just one six,” Tewatia said. “Five in an over went amazing. Coach sent me to hit sixes off the leg-spinner, but unfortunately, I did not hit him. Ultimately, I hit off the other bowlers.”