After the Rajasthan Royals' (RR) bowlers were smashed all across the Wankhede Stadium by the Punjab Kings (PBKS) top order, Sanju Samson and his troops had a tall run chase on their hands in their IPL 2021 opener.
As the Royals came out to chase the mammoth total, the team lost opener Ben Stokes off just the 3rd delivery of the innings. To make matters worse for the Jaipur-based franchise, Manan Vohra also departed early during the powerplay overs.
However, if the previous edition of the IPL has taught us anything - it is to never write off encounters between the Rajasthan Royals and the Punjab Kings.
Even though PBKS took an early advantage in the innings, RR skipper Sanju Samson single-handedly staged a marvellous comeback for his team and put up a fighting performance. What looked like an improbable run chase soon turned into a final over thriller. However, Sanju Samson failed to take his team across the line after a fantastic innings of 119.
After the thrilling encounter between the two sides, both think tanks will go back to the drawing board looking to fix their bowling issues ahead of the next IPL game. We analyse the three key points RR can take back from their batting innings against PBKS.
1. RR Captain Sanju Samson is striking the ball brilliantly
Even after finishing on the losing side, one of the best things that came out of the game for RR was Sanju Samson's magnificent knock with the bat. After being largely inconsistent in the previous edition of the IPL, Samson made a statement comeback with the bat for the Royals after being appointed skipper of the team for IPL 2021.
Sanju Samson's knock of 119 came off just 63 deliveries as he fought until the very last ball as a lone warrior to help his team get close to the target - finally losing out by just 4 runs. Samson's innings as an opener will give RR a huge boost going into the remaining matches of the tournament.
2. The top-order failing raises huge questions on the batting order
RR have often struggled to score runs at the top of the order. In IPL 2020, the team tried various opening combinations with Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Sanju Samson, but to little effect.
Early in the 2021 edition, RR's top-order woes continued to haunt the team. Ben Stokes had yet another failure with the bat at the top of the order as he perished without troubling the scorers off the 3rd delivery of the innings. Jos Buttler, on the other hand, looked in good touch during his brisk knock of 25 runs.
However, he too failed to convert his start into a big score and only added to the team's troubles.
Barring Riyan Parag's fierce striking in the middle-overs, and Sanju Samson's knock, the RR batting seemed rather dull. If the Sanju Samson-led outfit are to change fortunes in the ongoing season, these issues will need to be addressed promptly.
3. Riyan Parag impresses with an all-round show
After a great bowling effort, where he picked up the crucial wicket of Chris Gayle and gave away only 7 runs from the one over he bowled, Riyan Parag showed immense confidence with the bat too.
The 19-year old youngster announced himself on the big stage of IPL 2021 when he effortlessly smashed a delivery off Mohammed Shami into the stands early in his innings. The youngster then went on to smash a total of 3 sixes and a boundary in his cameo of 25 runs to put the Rajasthan Royals right back into the game.
Even though his cameo went in vain, Parag's performance will bring immense confidence to the RR camp. His all-round abilities mean that Riyan Parag can give the team a few overs in the middle and can also play the role of the perfect finisher in the team.