IPL 2020: Rahul Tewatia, Sanju Samson star as Rajasthan Royals register highest-successful chase in history
The desert city of Sharjah is not unknown to batting storms. The most famous of them all, of course, remains Sachin Tendulkar’s bashing of Shane Warne in 1998. The Australian great is back in the UAE as the mentor of Rajasthan Royals, and from his resort in Dubai, where he is undergoing one week quarantine, saw his team at the receiving end of another storm, brewed by Kings XI Punjab’s Mayank Agarwal (106 -- 50b).
For Warne’s solace there was another storm waiting to happen. Chasing KXIP’s mammoth 223/2 after Agarwal’s ton, with frontline batsmen Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and Sanju Samson back in the dugout, Rahul Tewatia took it upon himself to turn the tide. With 51 needed off 18 balls, he struck five huge sixes against Sheldon Cottrell to take the equation to 21 off 12. Next over by Mohammed Shami saw 19 runs scored with Tewatia and Jofra Archer doing the damage as RR needed just two of the last over.
PL 2020, RR vs KXIP: Mayank Agarwals slams 2nd fastest century by an Indian in IPL history
The job was completed by Tom Curran with a four against spinner Murugan Ashwin as RR recorded the highest successful chase in IPL history.
On any other day, KXIP could have breathed easy after putting up such a big score. Not at Sharjah and not against a team like RR which has the likes of Buttler, Smith and Samson, who had scored a 32-ball 74 at this very ground in his previous match. Buttler departed early, but Smith and Samson fired. The duo helped RR score the highest runs in the powerplay this season (69/1), surpassing KXIP’s 60/0 in the first innings.
Smith and Samson reached their half-century off 26 balls and were involved in an 81-run second wicket stand in 40 balls. Once Smith was caught at deep cover by Shami off Jimmy Neesham in the ninth over, RR’s pace of scoring slowed. Samson kept going despite Tewatia struggling at the other end before he eventually fell for a 42-ball 85. Tewatia then suddenly found his range of shots.
Agarwal scored the second fastest century by an Indian in IPL, off just 45 balls, and was involved in the third-highest opening stand ever in the tournament, 183 with KL Rahul. Those batting highlights catapulted KXIP to 223/2 in 20 overs.
Agarwal’s knock stood out because he strived for it. Having shown penchant for age-group tournaments with an aggressive style, the Karnataka batsman was expected to do well in limited-overs cricket.
After tons of runs in the domestic circuit and a long wait, Agarwal made his international debut but first in Tests. With a consistent display, he has sealed his position in the whites. As far as limited-overs go, Agarwal is yet to showcase his mettle.
Early signs show the 29-year-old has chosen this IPL to make a point. At the 2019 IPL, Agarwal scored 332 in 13 matches. This edition, he already has 221 in three matches. “There is always risk involved, just that in T20s you have to take them a little more often,” Agarwal told this paper before the tournament. The intent to tilt the risk-reward balance in his favour has clearly showed.
And what better place to take risks than the Sharjah Stadium, the smallest of the three grounds where IPL 2020 is being played. With KXIP captain and statemate Rahul playing the anchor at the other end, Agarwal went all out. Anything short and wide, and there were many of those, the KXIP opener would hook over the mid-on and if there was any length ball he would loft it over mid-off. When his timing was not perfect, Agarwal’s placement was.
Generally, teams rely on left-right combination to break a bowler’s rhythm. Here two right-handed openers achieved that objective with non-chalance. Except seamer Ankit Rajpoot (9.80) no RR bowler had an economy of less than 10.
Agarwal was most ruthless against RR spinners Rahul Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal. The former was taken off the attack after one over after conceding 19 runs while Gopal got hit for two sixes in the ninth over. Agarwal reached his maiden century in IPL with a lofted drive over extra cover. He was greeted with a hug by Rahul.
In the end though, IPL twists and turns had the final say.