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IPL 2020, Match 45: Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians – 152-run Stokes-Samson stand helps RR chase down 196

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It was a Ben Stokes special that helped the Rajasthan Royals (RR) register a major morale-boosting win against table-toppers Mumbai Indians (MI), chasing a steep target of 196 in the second of the two IPL matches today. Stokes and Samson came together for a 152-run partnership that helped their side over the line comfortably in the end.

Jofra Archer provided the perfect start for RR tonight by knocking the leg-stump of Quinton de Kock right out of the ground with an away-seamer that found an inside edge on the way. Suryakumar Yadav joined Ishan Kishan, and the two of them, Kishan in particular, made the most of the remainder of the first six overs, getting MI to 59. Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia kept things tight for a couple of overs, but then Suryakumar did well to find the fence twice off Gopal.

Kartik Tyagi was brought back into the attack to break the partnership, and he did just that by removing Ishan Kishan, who flashed hard at a short delivery outside off and was stunningly held by Jofra Archer at third man, invoking awestruck reactions from his teammates. Suryakumar followed two overs later, holing out to Ben Stokes in the deep off Gopal. Gopal then struck again four balls later, having been hit for six by Pollard, he came back strongly to bowl him with a delivery that kept low.

ALSO READ: IPL 2020: RR vs MI Game Plan 2 – Worth taking a gamble on Akash Singh?

Hardik Pandya then began settling in while Saurabh Tiwary punished a few poor deliveries with boundaries. Pandya teed off from the 18th over, which resulted in a total of 57 runs in the final three overs, out of which only 3 runs came off the penultimate over from Jofra Archer. Pandya finished with a 21-ball 60 studded with 2 fours and 7 powerfully struck sixes as MI set a daunting target of 196 for RR to win.

Robin Uthappa played almost the entire first two overs of the chase, smashing 13 out of them before mistiming a length delivery from Pattinson and being pouched by Pollard. The dismissal of Uthappa meant that Stokes could play his natural game, and the fact that he began his innings by timing the ball exceedingly well and finding the fence on four occasions against Trent Boult was a sign of good things to come.

All he needed was a reliable partner at the other end, and for a few moments, it looked like skipper Steven Smith would play that role tonight. He looked like he, too, was in good nick, having deposited Jasprit Bumrah into the mid-wicket stands. Unfortunately for RR, Smith yet again failed to capitalize on a good start, cleaned up by an in-seamer from James Pattinson next over.

Sanju Samson turned out to be the reliable partner that RR wanted, as he kept away from the strike as Stokes kept on peppering the boundary ropes. The fact that the two MI spinners, Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar were spinning the ball back into him only helped his case. Having played a Jasprit Bumrah over out in the middle-stages, Samson began freeing up his arms as well. An elegantly struck six over long-off was followed up by a cheeky dab to the third man fence off Pattinson. Chahar went for 19 in the following over, as RR reduced the equation down to 52 off the last six overs.

Pollard then brought his trump card, Jasprit Bumrah back for one more over to get the all-important breakthrough, but that had no effect whatsoever. In fact, Bumrah strayed down the leg-side on a couple of occasions that over, and was guided to the fine-leg fence by Samson on both occasions, the second of which brought up his fifty.

Both Boult and Bumrah were then bowled out in the three following overs, but that only saw RR edging closer to the target. Stokes ended things in the penultimate over from Pattinson, first with a nonchalant slog-sweep for six over deep mid-wicket to bring up his hundred and then a hit over extra cover for four to get RR two very valuable points.

RR v MI – Tactical and Talking Points from the game

Suryakumar finding the boundaries in the middle-overs for MI

He might often go under the radar due to the reputation of the rest of the Mumbai Indians batting line-up, but Suryakumar Yadav has been contributing both significantly and non-significantly throughout the tournament. After the early fall of opener Quinton de Kock’s wicket, Suryakumar held fort with Ishan Kishan, helping the 2016 U19 World Cup Indian skipper in teeing off.

Now, he might have scored only 40 at a strike rate of just over 150, but the x-factor in his knock was on display in the 9th over of the first innings, where he found the fence twice against Shreyas Gopal, one of the more miserly bowlers in the tournament. Suryakumar’s cameo helped MI keep the momentum going into the second half of the innings and provided the base for the big-hitting Hardik Pandya to strike big in the latter stages.

Kartik Tyagi given the last over instead of an over in the middle-stages

He’s young, he’s developing himself, he bowls at a good length with the new ball. Kartik Tyagi, as mentioned earlier, comes across as a fast bowler who extracts pace off the surface. RR skipper Steven Smith badly missed a trick by not giving him an over right when both Saurabh Tiwary and Hardik Pandya were new to the crease.

Instead, the youngster was handed the final over against a rampant Hardik Pandya, which would have produced only one outcome. Tyagi, unable to land the yorker, went for 27 in his final over, courtesy of a couple of boundaries and three towering sixes by the younger of the two Pandyas in the middle. It is player-management errors like these that is capable of ruining a youngster’s confidence, and to be fair, Steven Smith was to be blamed more than Tyagi for the last-over massacre.

Ben Stokes has announced himself in the IPL

It took him a few games, but Benjamin Stokes has finally made the impact all of us had expected from him in the IPL. Now, the reason why he got off to such a great start to his innings, striking at around 200 was because he had finally done away with playing the enforcer in the RR innings. The wicket of Uthappa in the first over, well before Stokes had faced a single ball only helped him in doing that.

In contrast to him struggling to find the fence with his hoicks and inventive strokes in the past few matches, Stokes kept his head straighter, which helped him check his shots and find the gaps with ease in the powerplay. The slogs and reverse sweeps only began to unravel against the spin-duo of Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya, both of whose deliveries were right in Stokes’ hitting zone far too often tonight.

Sanju Samson finally lives up to his reputation

He had been threatening to play a big knock in the past game or two, but his innings got cut short due to a poor, ungainly shot at a crucial juncture of the game for the Royals, just when he looked to take the game away.

But Samson showed his class once again tonight, and he did so while playing second fiddle to Ben Stokes all along. That Stokes played his natural game only helped Samson’s cause, as he helped himself to what looked like a decent batting track and then began playing his shots. Much like Stokes, Samson, too, did not try to overhit the ball or put too much power in his shots.

He played his strokes according to the merit of the ball, for which he was rewarded immensely. A couple of easy boundaries off Bumrah only helped his confidence, as he began to open up after that.

The highlight point of his knock tonight was the six over long-off that he hit off leg-spinner Rahul Chahar in the 14th over; Chahar pulled his length back and gave the ball a good rip upon spotting a forward shuffle from Samson, but the wicketkeeper-batsman kept his eye on the ball all along, adjusted to the length along with the shot and ended up hitting the ball through the line with a flatter bat, and his timing was so good that the ball cleared the boundary with ease.

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“I just reminded myself what my name is, I think Samson is the strongest man in the world. I keep remembering myself that. I am very strong and I can hit more sixes.” ~ Sanju Samson in the post-match presentation

Bumrah misfiring in the middle-overs of the chase

Jasprit Bumrah, who had bowled a solitary over in the initial stages of the 2nd innings, was brought on in the 11th over once, when the pair of Stokes and Samson had just begun with their eventual 152-run partnership, and then he was brought on in the 14th over, this time with the purpose of breaking through and bringing MI back in the game.

While Stokes and Samson did very well to play him out with singles on the first occasion, they benefited from some bad balls from MI’s premium pacer in the second, which gave them a psychological advantage in the chase – that their opposition’s best bowler completely messed up his line and length at a crucial stage.

The fast, in-dipping yorker, Bumrah’s go-to delivery, went completely missing during that spell, as he tried to hit the pitch on quite a few instances and ended up straying down the leg side, and even when he attempted the yorker, the line was wrong. To be honest, it was at that stage that RR had the game, all they had to do was play sensibly and keep the already dipping required rate in check.

ALSO READ: IPL 2020: RR vs MI Game Plan 1 – Should Jos Buttler open again?

Moments from tonight’s game

Jofra Archer’s catch to dismiss Ishan Kishan

A catch so good that made Sachin Tendulkar tweet like Virender Sehwag. Just as he was looking to get going, much like in MI’s previous game, Ishan Kishan slashed at a short delivery outside off from Kartik Tyagi in the 11th over, and the ball took a thick outside edge and travelled to third man.

Archer, who was stationed more or less in the exact position where the ball was heading, initially came a few steps ahead, realised his misjudgement, and then replicated his national teammate Ben Stokes’ effort to dismiss Andile Pheklukwayo in the World Cup last year. He leapt up, stuck out his right hand, and simply plucked the white projectile on its way to the boundary rope, triggering reactions of astonishment and dumbfoundedness.

Hardik Pandya taking the knee

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Hardik Pandya takes the knee after reaching 50

Jason Holder expressed his disappointment of the gesture of taking the knee, which is done to express solidarity to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, something that came into the forefront after the murder of American citizen George Floyd in the hands of the police, not going noticed in the IPL.

That was until today, when Hardik Pandya reached a whirlwind half-century and celebrated by sitting down on one knee and gesturing to the dressing room. There might be a possibility of Pandya facing certain consequences for the same, but it was certainly a heartening sight to behold.

Ben Stokes’ hand gesture after his hundred

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Ben Stokes celebrating his hundred

From one individual landmark celebration to another; Ben Stokes, who reached his second IPL hundred in the course of leading his team to a resounding victory, got to the milestone, raised his bat, accepted the congratulatory embrace from his partner Sanju Samson, and then took his helmet and the glove off his right hand and held up 4 and a half fingers.

The finger that he half-raised or kept folded was his middle one. Stokes had celebrated like this on a few occasions before, and the reason behind the celebration is because his dad, Ged Stokes, a former professional Rugby player, had to endure plenty of injuries to the same finger over the course of his career, which resulted him in amputating it to ensure his return to Rugby action sooner. Stokes pays homage to his father, who is currently battling brain cancer, with this unique gesture every time he or his team achieves a major landmark.