It was going to be Shane Watson’s game. The Rajasthan Royals all-rounder turned the game around with a critical spell of 3-22 after Chris Gayle had given the Royal Challengers Bangalore a fearsome start. Watson then made precious runs coming in to bat at No. 4 that helped Rajasthan chase down the target of 171. But it was young Sanju Samson who was the star of the show.
The wicketkeeper batsman from Trivandrum struck a pristine 63 in 41 balls to propel the chase that was capped off by Watson and Brad Hodge in the final over. It left Bangalore searching for their first win away – they have now lost four out of four after winning all six at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
The highlight of Samson’s innings were the two sixes he hit off Murali Kartik – two gorgeously-timed lofts over extra cover to welcome the veteran spinner to the crease. In a partnership of 68, Samson was the aggressor to Watson.
The game got tight at the end with Rajasthan losing wickets in a heap. Watson perished to a miscued pull, Hodge was bowled by Vinay Kumar’s slower ball, and Owais Shah lost after taking on Virat Kohli’s arm. It still wasn’t a tall ask as Stuart Binny hammered a four through midwicket to end the game.
A GAYLE MINI-SHOW
Gayle’s record-breaking hundred last whet the appetite of cricket fans around India to such a degree, they simply want to see him hit some of his big sixes. So what if has to do that to their home team. Such was the case at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium today where Gayle – easily the most popular overseas cricket at the IPL – began the game with a flurry of boundaries.
The crowd cheered him on. They wanted their team Rajasthan to do well, but they wanted to see a big performance from Gayle even more. Gayle started off with three fours off the first over by Ajit Chandila – an edge past point, a gentle tap down the ground, and then a sweep.
He turned his attention to Faulkner and Sreesanth: a bludgeon through midwicket, two thumps down the ground and another bludgeon through midwicket. Bangalore were 39-0 in three overs and Gayle had barely warmed up. What was he going to do today?
Then, Rahul Dravid brought on Watson. He and Gayle have had their skirmishes over the years and when the seamer served Gayle a harmless looking ball outside off, Gayle edged it to the wicketkeeper. Watson grinned, but there was no repeat of the exaggerated celebrations he had once annoyed Gayle with.
Kohli held the innings together, but a blow to his elbow first ball from Faulkner possibly curtailed the movement of his right arm. His 32 in 35 balls were not what Bangalore needed after Gayle’s brisk start.
Faulkner has been in the thick of the action this week. He took 5-20 in the last game against Hyderabad and is currently one of the top wicket-takers in the tournament. Today, he showed he can field too. Two catches, a run-out – all critical wickets – helped Rajasthan keep Bangalore to 171, a score they would have still struggled to reach had Vinay Kumar not struck the young Tasmanian pacer for three sixes in the final over.