Sanju Samson almost, almost pulled off a perfect chase, single-handedly. Five was required of the last two balls, he turned down a single off the first and looked to end it in style in the final ball. But all in vain as the fielder in deep cover denied Samson that magical moment, hence handing Punjab Kings a thrilling win in Mumbai.
Deepak Hooda ahead of Nicholas Pooran?
When Chris Gayle departed in the 10th over, Pooran was expected to walk out. The West Indies player was Punjab's most effective batsman last season with a BASRA (Batting average + strike rate) of 205 and frequency of boundaries being well less than 5. Besides, it would have been a like-for-like replacement, with both being left-handed batsmen. But it was Hooda who walked in at No.4. Only six times in his IPL career has he batted at No.4 or higher, averaging just 15.4 with a strike rate of 148.1.
He later revealed that it has been a role assigned to him by the management and that he has been familiar with the batting position having batted at No.4 in domestic cricket. "I got this role at No. 4 and I am happy to get this role, as I bat at this position in domestic cricket," he said at the end of Punjab's innings.
Hooda had returned with a blistering 64 off 28 balls, laced with four boundaries and six maximums, perfectly complementing Rahul's knock of 91 off 50 balls as the two stitched a sensational 105-run stand in 46 balls.
Is the 2018 version of KL Rahul back?
Remember that "strike rate is overrated" statement? Well, it was over the top tonight for Rahul in Mumbai as he clobbered seven boundaries and four sixes en route to his 50-ball 91.
A poor middle-order lineup had probably urged Rahul to fall anchor and bat deep and cautiously through the innings. Hence, even while he scored 670 runs last season to bag the Orange Cap, Rahul's strike rate was just 129.3, his worst since joining the Punjab-based franchise. In 2018, he averaged 54.9 and recorded a strike rate 158.4 while scoring 659 runs in 14 innings. While both the versions were filled with intent, it was only a difference in approach.
On Monday, Rahul showed a glimpse of his 2018 self. He did undergo a sluggish start with a strike rate of 115.14 in the PowerPlay, his scoring rate increased to 207 between overs 7 and 11, 188.1 between overs 12 and 16, and 225 between overs 17 and 20.
Sanju Samson's yet another impressive start
If you have avidly followed his IPL career over the last few years, his batting numbers have drawn a trend. In the last four years, Samson has scored around 60 per cent of his runs in the first three games. He averages well over 40 in the first half of the IPL with a strike rate of around 145. The respective numbers drop to around 20 and 130 in the second half.
Monday was his first IPL 2021 game, and Samson responded as per the trend, starting his journey with a 63-ball 119, laced with 12boundaries and seven sixes.