Sanju Samson fought hard for India in the first One-Day International against South Africa in Lucknow on Thursday. Chasing a stiff target of 250 in a match reduced to 40-overs-a-side due to rain, the wicketkeeper-batter walked into the middle with India reeling at 51/4 in the 18th over. Sanju played second fiddle to Shreyas Iyer as the two added 67 off 54 balls for the fifth wicket to steady the ship. After Iyer departed for a 37-ball 50, Sanju became the dominant partner in the sixth-wicket stand of 93 off 65 balls in the company of Shardul Thakur.
But once Thakur fell to Lungi Ngidi for 33 in the 38th over, it was left to Sanju to get India over the line. However, Sanju got his tactics slightly wrong. With India needing 37 off 13 balls and with three wickets remaining, Sanju decided not to take a chance by going for a bye off the last ball of the 38th over after he failed to connect. Tailender Avesh Khan would have been the one going to the danger end. Even if Avesh got out it would not have made much difference. On the other hand had they managed to steal a bye, Sanju would have been back on strike with Kagiso Rabada bowling the penultimate over of the Indian innings.
Avesh missed to connect off Rabada’s first two balls. Sanju then made a big tactical error as he decided to pick up a couple after Avesh was dropped by Nigidi off the third ball. Sanju could have easily refused the second run and got back on strike. But the mistake meant Avesh retained strike and he wasted another two balls before being finally dismissed off the fifth ball. New batter Ravi Bishnoi picked up a streaky boundary off the free hit after Rabada bowled a no-ball. India managed just seven runs off the penultimate over and Sanju did not get to face a single ball.
India needed 30 off spinner Tabraiz Shamsi’s final over. Sanju smashed a six and three fours as the hosts managed 20 runs off the last over, but it was not enough as they fell short by nine runs. Sanju remained unbeaten on 86 off 63 balls. It was a fantastic knock, but he could have pulled off a miraculous win for Team India with a bit more planning.