Sanju Samson's sensational 63-ball 119 in his maiden outing as Rajasthan Royals captain was not enough as his team fell short by four runs to Punjab Kings in their opening match of IPL 2021.
Chasing a formidable target of 222 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Sanju lived a charmed life as he was dropped by his Punjab counterpart K L Rahul when he was on 12. Mayank Agarwal too handed the Kerala star a reprieve when on 36. Sanju successfully overturned an LBW decision by using the DRS when on 52.
In between, Sanju played a flurry of stunning shots. He brought up his fifty off 33 balls and reached his third IPL ton off just 54 balls. The second fifty came off a mere 21 balls. With 22 needed off the last two overs, Royals were the favourites.
However, Riley Meredith bowled a brilliant penultimate over giving away only eight runs besides sending back the dangerous Rahul Tewatia.
Royals needed 13 off the final over bowled young left-arm medium-pacer Arshdeep Singh. Sanju missed the first ball before managing a single off the next ball. Chris Morris picked up a single off the next delivery and Sanju smashed a six off the fourth ball to bring down the equation to five off two.
Sanju refused a single off the penultimate delivery even as Morris was keen on taking strike. Sanju, needing at least a boundary to force a Super Over and a six to win the game, perished off the final ball caught by Deepak Hooda in the deep.
Did Sanju miss a trick by turning down a single in the final over? South African Morris is a big-hitter and he fancied his chances against the rather inexperienced Arshdeep. However, Sanju backed himself to get the job done. Moreover, he was the set batsman, while Morris looked rusty as he had managed just two off four balls.
"I don't have words, it was very close, but unfortunately.. I don't think I could have done anything more. I timed it well, but unfortunately couldn't clear the man in the deep,” said Sanju after the narrow loss.
Despite the defeat Sanju would be thrilled with his form as Royals need him to fire big time this IPL.