Another turbo-charged start for Sanju Samson as Rajasthan bag comfortable win in their opener

Sanju Samson started IPL 2024 with a half-century (Photo: IPL/X)

Sanju Samson led from the front as Rajasthan Royals began their IPL 2024 campaign with a 20-run win over the Lucknow Super Giants. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag and Dhruv Jurel did their bit with the bat, while Trent Boult was at his usual wicket-taking self with the ball. For Lucknow, half-centuries from KL Rahul and Nicholas Pooran turned out to be just consolations following a top-order collapse.

Samson races off the blocks, again

Check out this sequence of scores – 74 (32), 119 (63), 55 (27), 55 (32), 82* (52). Stunning, right? That’s Samson in his first appearance in each of the last five IPL seasons. If you need a clue as to why so many pundits and casual fans rate him so highly, the answer is in those numbers. Samson seems to be aware that apart from the final week, it’s the beginning of the tournament that captures the most eyeballs. And with hundreds of millions in thrall this opening weekend, he delivered once again, with the unbeaten 82 the cornerstone of Rajasthan’s above-par total. The perennial question remains though. Can he finally make it count? Now into his 12th season in the league, Samson hasn’t once crossed 500 runs in a season. If India’s selectors have been fairly lukewarm when it comes to him, that lack of consistency is a major reason.

Lucknow bowlers cop a hammering

Make no mistake, this wasn’t some featherbed to bat on. The Boult bouncers that clanged the helmets of Devdutt Padikkal and Rahul told you that much. Lucknow’s new-ball pairing of Mohsin Khan and Naveen-ul-Haq went for 86 in their eight overs, with Samson and Jaiswal both taking a shine to whatever they came up with. Yash Thakur was also smashed all over, while Ravi Bishnoi went at nearly 10 an over too. But for Krunal Pandya’s miserly spell of 0-19, Rajasthan would have cruised past 200. Lucknow’s strategy is very all-rounder heavy, but sooner or later, they’ll need to create a spot for Shamar Joseph, the new Caribbean pace sensation. Without power-play wickets and a hint of menace with the ball, it could be a long leather-hunt of a season.

The new bouncer rule makes a difference

No more plonking your front foot and heaving away, safe in the knowledge that the one bouncer for the over has been bowled. The decision to allow bowlers two every six balls is a big step towards righting the balance in what has increasingly become a bat-dominated and often-boring game. You could see the effect of it in Padikkal’s dismissal. The first ball of Trent Boult’s over took a chunk out of the helmet and necessitated the mandatory concussion test. The next ball, Padikkal couldn’t be sure if the ball would rear up at him again. He was so far back in the crease in anticipation that he was in no position to play what wasn’t even a very full delivery. Boult got it to nip back a touch and it took the top of middle stump. With this rule in place, expect the likes of Jasprit Bumrah to wreak havoc.

Can Hooda get his groove back?

It’s easy to forget that Deepak Hooda played 31 times for India between February 2022 and February 2023, with 21 of those caps coming in the shortest format. His reputation was sky-high after the 2022 IPL, where he smashed 451 runs at a strike-rate of 136. A year later, he managed a pitiful 84 in 12 innings. With the T20 World Cup almost upon us, Hooda isn’t even part of the selection debates. But given that he only turns 29 next month, the door is far from closed. The little 13-ball cameo of 26 that kept Lucknow in the match after an awful start was a reminder of what he can offer when on top of his game.

Rahul approach laced with risk

Lucknow’s chase started disastrously, and it was only to be expected that they would need a small spell to stabilise the innings. But just how long can you take? At one stage, KL Rahul had 25 from 25 balls. Take out the six and four off Nandre Burger, and you could see how much he struggled with both rotation of strike and finding the fence. He made 33 off the next 19 deliveries he faced, but you always felt that Lucknow were behind the eight-ball and had left themselves too much to do.

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