Sanju Samson and Steve Smith hammered explosive half-centuries as Rajasthan Royals stunned three-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by 16 runs to launch their campaign on an ambitious note in the Dream11 Indian Premier League at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
In a battle between formidable CSK and underdogs Rajasthan Royals, the Steve Smith-led side produced tremendous batting effort to virtually out-bat their mighty opponents. It rained fours and sixes throughout the match as both the teams capitalised on the small size of the oldest UAE ground.
Kerala youngster Samson came up with a brutally attractive 74 off just 32 balls to provide a solid launch pad for his team. He treated all the bowlers with disdain, particularly CSK veteran leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, to hit one of the fastest fifties in the IPL.
After Samson laid a strong platform, Smith (69: 47, 4×4, 4×6) consolidated Rajasthan Royals position by smashing equally important fifty. Thanks to Samson-Smith onslaught, Rajasthan Royals piled up a season’s highest score of 216 for 7 so far after CSK skipper MS Dhoni asked them to bat first.
The duo played well in tandem as Royals raced to 119 for 1 in 10 overs. Wicketkeeper-batsman Samson cracked nine sixes and just a solitary four during his swashbuckling knock. It was his eleventh fifty in the IPL. He had a chance and time at his disposal to score his third IPL century but carried away when he was in total command.
Samson smashed leggie Chawla for three straight sixes, snatched two more off left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja followed by one each off pacers Deepak Chahar and Sam Curran to reach the milestone.
The 25-year-old Samson, who has been part of the IPL since 2013, also joined the likes of Owais Shah and Jos Buttler who had earlier smashed the fastest fifties for Royals in the tourney.
In 2012 against Royal Challengers Bangalore, England batsman Shah had hit a 19-ball 50 and last year, Butler had belted an 18-ball half-century against Delhi Capitals.
Smith and Samson added 121 runs rapidly for the second wicket before the latter fell for 74 while trying to hit one more in the orbit.
Towards the end, Jofra Archer played a cameo of 27 not out off only 8 balls to finish the innings in style. The England all-rounder hit four towering sixes to rub the salt into the wounds of CSK bowlers.
Chasing a daunting target of 217, CSK were never in contention and were restricted to 200 for 6 despite late valiant efforts from Fad du Plessis (72: 37 balls, 1×4, 7×6) and MS Dhoni (29 not out: 17 balls, 3×6) in the end.
Although, last year’s runners-up tried their best but they just couldn’t cope up with the stiff asking rate. First match hero du Plessis once again kept his team in the hunt with a second successive fifty. The South African skipper never gave up and fought till the end with some lusty blows to keep the interest of fans alive. He smashed sixes at will, clearing the ropes on seven occasions. Dhoni was just giving his young partner strike initially but he too displayed his true class in the last over of the day.
Earlier, openers Shane Watson (33: 21 balls, 1×4, 4×6) and Murali Vijay (21: 21 balls, 3×4)) gave a decent start but it was not enough as CSK reached 100 in 11.5 overs. Kedar Jadhav too flourished briefly with 22 off 16 balls. Royals leg-spinner Raul Tewatia was the most successful bowler with 3 for 37.
Rajasthan Royals 216 for 7 in 20 overs (Sanju Samson 74, Steve Smith 69, Jofra Archer 27 not out, Tom Curran 10 not out, Rahul Tewatia 10; Sam Curran 3-33, Deepak Chahar 1-31, Piyush Chawla 1-55, Lungi Ngidi 1-56) beat Chennai Super Kings 200 for 6 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 72, Shane Watson 33, MS Dhoni 29 not out, Kedar Jadhav 22, Murali Vijay 21, Sam Curran 17; Rahul Tewatia 3-37, Jofra Archer 1-26, Shreyas Gopal 1-38, Tom Curran 1-54) by 16 runs.
Man-of-the-match: Sanju Samson (RR).