Chasing a target of 178 in the stipulated 20 overs, the Royals were 26 for two in the powerplay overs but a determined captain’s knock from Samson and the finishing touches from Hetmyer took them home in the chase.
The run chase looked improbable for the visitors – who had never won a game against Gujarat Titans – have climbed to the top of the points table with eight points in the bag in five games.
Such was the impact of Samson and Hetmyer’s big hittings that Rajasthan Royals ended up scoring 113 runs in the last eight overs and helped their team secure a memorable win in a retake of the IPL 2022 final.
Hetmyer (56* off 26 balls, 2x fours, 5x sixes) was at this explosive best and took every Gujarat bowler on remand during his stay into the middle. While Samson scored a 32-ball 60 to set the tone for his team in the run chase.
Samson even hammered Rashid Khan for three consecutive maximums and cleared his intentions that he’s going for the kill and will look to win this game for his team in front of a packed stadium.
Earlier in the day, Shubman Gill’s cool demeanour in the face of adversity and skipper Hardik Pandya’s quick understanding of the situation again came to the fore as Gujarat Titans posted 177 for seven.
South African left-handed batter David Miller (46 off 30 balls) and Abhinav Manohar (27 off 13) provided the final flourish, with a 45-run partnership that was studded with three boundaries and five maximums.
Gill (45) and Pandya (28) came together at a time when the powerplay score seemed far from ideal. And, with two players back in the dugout, the defending champions seemed vulnerable. The 59-run partnership, not just infused life into the match, it also helped the defending champions launch a full-scale onslaught in the death overs.
With 42 for 2 at the end of powerplay and Wriddhiman Saha (4) and young Sai Sudarshan (20) going cheaply, it was left to the captain and one of his most trusted team-mates to turn things around for the Titans.
Initially, Gill played the waiting game, getting off the mark off the last ball of the third over, by smashing an effortless boundary through extra cover off a length delivery from New Zealand pace bowler Trent Boult.
Pandya and Gill picked the seventh and eighth overs, bowled by Adam Zampa and Ravichandran Ashwin, for some special treatment, with the Titans skipper spanking a six and a four off the Australian in the seventh, and the pair milking 17 off the eight over bowled by Ashwin.
The Titans were off to an inauspicious start with opener Saha yet again throwing away his wicket. The Bengal cricketer, after dispatching a full toss from Boult to the ropes, was out next ball by getting a leading edge that went miles up in the air.
It was not the dismissal but the manner in which the catch was taken that left the crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium in peals of laughter.
Wicket-keeper Sanju Samson charged forward from behind the stumps, while West Indian Shimron Hetmyer too came rushing in from from square leg. Dhruv Jurel raced in from point. It’s a miracle that none of them suffered an injury.
Samson got his gloves to the ball and collided with Hetmyer with the ball popping out of the gloves and into the air. Boult, who had positioned himself some distance away from the trio, prepped himself to take a possible rebound. That awareness worked for the New Zealander and he eventuality took the catch.
The left-handed Surdarshan, after playing a couple of exquisite shots – one off a swinging Boult delivery that curled away slightly and was driven past the non-striker to the mid-on boundary – departed on 20, run out, thanks to a quick throw from Jos Buttler.
Samson was quick to rip off the bails with video reviews showing the youngster had been caught inches from the crease. The success, off Zampa’s bowling brought Gill and Pandya at the crease. And, till the time they remained, the cricket was regaling.
In the 11th over, Pandya, attempting a heave off wily spinner Yuzvendra Chahal over long-on only, produced a top-edge which flew to Yashasvi Jaiswal at extra cover.
Gill too departed 30 runs later, and at 121/4 in the 16th over, things again started looking wobbly for the Titans. But South Miller and Manohar, who came in place of Vijay Shankar, gave the perfect finishing touches with their lofty hitting.
(With PTI inputs)
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