Punjab Kings captain KL Rahul and his team survived a stunning hundred from Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson to win their first game of IPL 2021 by four runs. Sanju Samson left no stone unturned in going for the 222-run target set by Punjab Kings; however, his 119 on captaincy debut was not enough to secure the victory. KL Rahul, who struck 91, said that there was tension, but they did not stop believing.
Despite Mayank Agarwal departing early, KL Rahul looked comfortable at the crease and ticked along well. Chris Gayle’s dismissal for 40 brought Deepak Hooda, who raised the tempo largely. Hooda scored a 20-ball 50, slamming six sixes in the process and added 105 off 47 balls with KL Rahul and was dismissed for 64 off 28 balls. Punjab Kings’ skipper KL Rahul departed for 91 off 49 deliveries in the last over and lifted his side to 221.
Rajasthan Royals did not start their chase well, as Ben Stokes went back for a three-ball duck. Stokes’ opening partner Manan Vohra got a reprieve, and so did Sanju Samson, but Vohra departed shortly after that, as Arshdeep Singh took a reflex catch off his bowling. Jhye Richardson got his maiden IPL wicket by disturbing Jos Buttler’s stumps to dent Punjab’s chase significantly.
But Samson stayed rock solid and shared tiny, albeit brisk partnerships with Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, and Chris Morris. Both sides knew that as long as Samson stayed at the crease, Rajasthan stood a realistic chance and it was true even when they needed five off the last ball. But the centurion sliced to Deepak Hooda at sweeper cover to come tantalisingly close to doing the job single-handedly.
Important for us to bat fearlessly, great to see boys trying to understand what we expect: KL Rahul
KL Rahul stated that the tensions level were at a sky-high; however, he knew that a couple of wickets would bring them back. The 28-year old accepts responsibility for he and his unit dropping some catches, but he felt glad that the bowling unit performed as planned. KL Rahul also conceded that they were not thinking about the last year’s match at Sharjah against the Royals and believes that they need to back the bowlers as they are inexperienced. The keeper-batsman admired the fearless batting by Deepak Hooda and praised Arshdeep Singh for wanting to bowl under pressure, along with thriving in it.
“Heart rate was high but I didn’t stop believing. We knew a couple of wickets would bring us back. Till first 10-11 overs we bowled well. It was close because we dropped a few sitters, including me. As a bowling unit, we bowled as we planned. When you’re bowling against Sanju, it’s difficult. We weren’t thinking of the last year’s game (the Tewatia one). Great way to start. We made some mistakes. Bowled well in patches, something bowlers will learn. It’s a young team, some new boys, the boys are talented and skillful, so we need to back them. Deepak Hooda’s innings was amazing.
That’s the kind of batting we want to see as a team. We want to bat fearlessly and take down bowlers. We have a lot of power in our line-up but we’ve been tentatively slightly. Important for us to bat fearlessly, great to see boys trying to understand what we expect. And that they are feeling comfortable to do that role. Good with Hooda’s batting, Gayle batted well. I had gone to Arshdeep for crucial overs last year too. He doesn’t mind bowling the pressure overs, he seems to enjoy it. He loves being in the contest. Love throwing him the ball. He’s pretty clear with what he wants to do,” Rahul told in the post-match presentation.