Images from Tuesday's IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, in Sharjah.
Sanju Samson stole the limelight as Rajasthan Royals made an impressive start to their campaign in the Indian Premier League, beating Chennai Super Kings by 16 runs, in Sharjah on Tuesday.
His effortless six-hitting exhibition and wicketkeeping, along with Jofra Archer's magnificent all-round show, was the cornerstone of Rajasthan Royals's thumping victory.
Rated as the weakest of the eight teams in the cash-rich T20 extravaganza, the Royals, without the services of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, got their act almost perfect under skipper Steve Smith.
On a placid Sharjah track, they amassed 216 for 7, largely due to Samson's 74 off 32 balls that had nine maximums apart from a solitary boundary. He found an able ally in Smith, who opened in T20 cricket for the first time in his career and scored 69 off 47 balls without much fuss while making a comeback to competitive cricket after a concussion break.
But it was Archer's four sixes off Lungi Ngidi in the final over that tilted the scales decisively as 30 runs came off it.
Even going by the easy nature of the track, scoreboard pressure was always there and Chennai Super Kings did well to post 200 for 6, before Archer (1/26 off 4 overs) swung it for the Royals in a decisive 19th over.
Rahul Tewatia (3/37 in 4 overs) also deserves credit for his wickets at the top of the order.
It was always a catch-up game for the Super Kings, and one felt their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni should have come up the order. By the time he came in at No 7 the match was as good as over.
The night, though, belonged to Samson, a player rated for his talent but criticised for inconsistency. He always has one or two incredible IPL days every year. Tuesday was one such day when he was at his brilliant best. Piyush Chawla, after a dream start to his IPL career, was hit for three sixes in one over by Samson, all clean hits that landed several rows in to the stands.
His skipper also joined the six-hitting competition, with four himself, adding 121 for the second wicket in just 9.2 overs. What stood out was the minimum effort he used in lofting the straight sixes as the bat looked like a mere extension of his hands.
Chawla (1/55) and Ravindra Jadeja (0/40 in 4 overs) were targeted keeping short boundaries in mind and 95 runs came off those 8 overs from slow bowlers. Just when it looked that a century was there for taking, Samson was c aught at deep extra cover trying to hit Ngidi for a six.
Once Smith was out in the 18th over, a total of 200 that looked so imminent after the first 10, started looking distant. That’s till Archer decided to use his bat like sword and scythed through a hapless Ngidi, who lost nerve and length simultaneously. Four sixes and 30 runs finally proved to be decisive.
Chennai did challenge at one stage, with Faf du Plessis (72 off 37 balls) launching into Jaydev Unadkat (0/44 in 4 overs)'s final over, hitting him for three sixes and seven in all. However, Archer bowled a lethal short ball that grew big on Du Plessis to close in the match before Dhoni's (29 off 17 balls) three sixes in the final over were in a lost cause.
In the final over, Jofra Archer (27 off 8 balls) hit four sixes off Lungi Ngidi as Royals got 30 runs to take the score past 215.
In all, the Royals hit 17 sixes, with Samson accounting for nine of them, and Smith and Archer four each.
While Smith played second fiddle initially, Samson took the Chennai spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla to task, taking 95 runs of eight overs collectively.
Introduced into the attack in the seventh over, Jadeja was clobbered for consecutive sixes by Samson before Chawla went for four sixes in his first over -- three by Samson and one by Smith.
Samson, thus, brought up his quickest IPL fifty – off just 19 balls -- with the help of a boundary and six hits over the fence.
If that was not enough for Chawla, the leg-spinner again leaked big in his next over as both Samson and Smith took him to cleaners.
Chennai Super Kings made a much-needed comeback in the match in the 12th over with twin blows in the form of in-form Samson and an unlucky David Miller.
While after a big-hitting display, Samson fell in search one too many, caught by Deepak Chahar off Lungi Ngidi, Miller departed two balls later in search on a non-existent double.
Chennai made another comeback into the match in the 17th over when Sam Curran dismissed Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag before Smith departed in the 19th in search of big hits.
In the last over, Archer used his long handle to great effect and smashed Ngidi to all parts of the ground and above it to garner 30 runs.