The second of two keeper-captain battles in the first week of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, the game between the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Punjab Kings (PBKS) was a high-scoring affair. With both KL Rahul and Sanju Samson having a point to prove before the upcoming T20 World Cup, the match promised to be a thrilling affair.
Unlike the tricky Chennai pitch, the track at the Wankhede was a batting beauty. Pacers and spinners alike were smashed over the ropes as two of the IPL's chronically underperforming sides showcased their intentions of a title run this season.
What appeared to be a one-sided game after the first innings rapidly evened out as the RR batsmen showed their muscle, similar to the game between them and PBKS at the start of IPL 2020. Unlike that game, RR could not close out the match, falling short by a tiny margin of four runs.
Here are the three biggest turning points from the IPL game between RR and PBKS.
#3 Ben Stokes drops the PBKS skipper
PBKS had endured a middling powerplay after left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya got rid of Mayank Agarwal. It was then down to their long-term batting stars, KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, to accelerate and set a platform the power-hitters in the PBKS middle order could capitalise upon.
Shreyas Gopal, one of RR's most bankable spinners over the years, came on to bowl the first over after the powerplay. KL Rahul tried to smash the leggie over long-off, only to find Ben Stokes charging at the ball.
In what was a below-par effort by such a fine fielder, Stokes couldn't hold on despite getting to the ball, letting it go for four too. Rahul cashed in on the reprieve, scoring a fine 91 for PBKS before finally getting dismissed.
#2 Murugan Ashwin gives RR a sniff
Though there were two capable batsmen at the crease, the target for RR was looking increasingly daunting - 68 runs needed off five overs. PBKS skipper KL Rahul then brought on his only frontline spinner in the form of Murugan Ashwin to complete his quota of overs.
He started the over in the worst possible way - a floaty slot ball that Sanju Samson obliged by pumping down the ground for six. The next two balls offered a bit of respite, with just one run from them. However, Riyan Parag took matters into his own hands and smashed two more sixes, along with a single, to complete 20 runs off the over and bring his team back into the contest.
#1 Sanju Samson's two balls to forget
During an innings to remember, Sanju Samson's dream started breaking as he became conscious that Chris Morris was offering him close to no support whatsoever from the other end. It meant that a somewhat facile 21 off the last two overs began to look difficult unless he backed himself to get all of them.
After eight off the first four balls of the final over, RR were firmly in control with 5 needed off 2. Samson struck one into the deep, but sent Morris back and retained strike - even as replays showed the South African nearly completing two runs. It meant Samson had made an incredibly bold decision - although he was in the sort of form to vindicate it.
PBKS pacer Arshdeep Singh then held his nerve and foxed Samson with a slower one to close out the contest despite a superlative innings from the RR skipper on captaincy debut.