Sanju Samson, Rajasthan Royals' find of Indian Premier League 2013, played the 'it doesn't matter how the runs come as long as they come' game on the way to a half-century as sumptuous as it was chancy, leading Rajasthan to a seven-wicket win against Mumbai Indians on Saturday (September 21) in Jaipur. (Read: Dravid happy with Royals' professional performance)
Samson's 54 off 47 balls piloted Rajasthan's successful chase of Mumbai's 142 for 7, keeping their all-win record in 2013 at Sawai Man Singh Stadium intact, with the biggest innings of the match. In the process, he became the youngest man to hit a half-century in both the IPL and the Champions League Twenty20. (Match highlights)
The pitch was one on which bowlers competed on more than equal terms, helped by a sudden downpour that delayed the start by 15 minutes, with batsmen made to work for their runs. (Match pics)
Samson came in to bat in Rajasthan's second over, Rahul Dravid having fallen early, and was fortunate to survive a close lbw shout against a pacy Mitchell Johnson when on one. He weathered the rest of Johnson's fiery spell, and resurrected Rajasthan's innings in the company of Ajinkya Rahane.
Both men displayed admirable batting smarts in not taking a risk against the good balls but going hard at anything that could be put away. Making the loose deliveries count was essential on this pitch, and the duo's 74-run stand off 59 balls put Rajasthan on track.
Rahane fell, dragging Rishi Dhawan on to his stumps, leaving Rajasthan 79 for 2 in 11.2 overs, but Rajasthan had their trump card, Shane Watson, at No. 4. Watson had batted at that number often for Rajasthan in IPL VI, and in this match, Rajasthan had the added advantage of having a set platform and Johnson's new-ball burst seen off.
Though Samson fell in the 16th over, Watson (27 not out in 22 balls) and Stuart Binny (21 not out in 14), ensured no hiccups, completing the chase with two balls to spare.
A large part of the credit for Rajasthan's win was due to their bowlers, who showed exemplary discipline. That Mumbai got to a challenging total at all was down to Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard.
Dravid won the toss and kept the Mumbai batsmen guessing with astute bowling changes - as many as six bowlers were used within the first nine overs. It was a gamble that could have come unstuck, but for the fact that every bowler did what was expected of him.
The lengths the Rajasthan bowlers bowled varied - Rahul Shukla was happy to bang it in, while Vikramjeet Malik and Watson preferred to pitch it up - but they kept to the channel outside off stump, and Mumbai's batsmen were not allowed freebies.
Mumbai's innings got off to a sluggish start, with Malik doing most of the early damage in accounting for Dwayne Smith and Dinesh Karthik, while Binny netted Tendulkar - to silence from the spectators - and at 43 for 4 in the ninth over, they were in some strife. There was movement on offer in the air, and the wet conditions before the match meant the pitch had some juice.
As the last recognised pair, Rohit and Kieron Pollard focused on rebuilding, and though Rohit scooped a six and deposited a full toss over the ropes later, the run rate wasn't electric. Pollard came to life in the final overs, after Rohit had gone for 44 (37 balls), smashing a couple of sixes and fours before falling to Malik, who ended with 3 for 24. However, his 42 (36 balls) had kept the late momentum going, and given Mumbai a chance.
But on the night, luck and pluck were both on the side of Samson, Malik and Rajasthan, and they showed that it would need more than just a fighting performance to beat them in their own den.