Runs galore in Sharjah

Rajasthan Royals outbatted the KingsXI Punjab at Sharjah Cricket Ground yesterday, winning the tie with 3 balls and 4 wickets to spare.

“ What a game of cricket!” Read the headlines of most articles covering this match. The fact is 449 runs were scored in just 39.3 overs. And the game did go down to the wire, with a clear winner emerging only at the end of the 19 th over. This kind of a match, witnessed every once in a while, is great for the game of T20 Cricket. But if we start having these games regularly, it will kill the sport.

First Innings

KingsXI were off to a flying start after being put in to bat first by the RR. The opening pair of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal is world class, and on a small ground with a flat deck, they caused mayhem. A particular shot, a cover drive by Rahul off Jofra in the 4th over, stands out in memory, if you ever look up the definition of cover drive in cricket, the picture of this shot would accompany that definition. The batsmen were rarely troubled, and the two openers went on making merry. Finally Mayank Agarwal perished, more due to fatigue I think than anything else really, for a well made 106 off 50 balls.

An opening stand of 183 in 16.3 overs. I think the partnership dragged on a bit in the last 2-3 overs, one of them should have gone for the big shots early, preferably the score should have been over 200 in 16 overs. But then again that’s the challenge of batting first, you don’t have the scoreboard pressure that batters face in the second innings, but you have to know what the best score on that wicket is and pace the innings accordingly.

I believe, KingsXI had set 216 as a benchmark, i.e runs scored by RR in the last match batting first, and thought anything over that would be a good enough total. Also 13 of 9 balls, on this wicket, from Maxwell. Sorry, not good enough. KingsXI gave RR a target of 224.

2nd innings

Butler went early for a mere 4 runs, but Steve Smith and Sanju Samson steadied the ship and ensured that RR were never too far off the required run rate. Smith has really taken to this openers role like a duck to water, and seems to be enjoying playing the T20 game at last. And why wouldn’t he? It's not everyday that you get to play on such forgiving grounds. Smith departed with the score at 100 in 8 overs.

After this it was Sanju Samson who again displayed his full range of stroke play, scoring 85 off only 42 balls. The thing about Samson is that he likes to play aerial shots a lot and I have seen him play similar shots to the one he played today and get caught out in the deep in bigger international sized stadiums. Even on his India debut he perished trying to play a shot, which today went for a six. There is no denying his talent, and its not his fault that the Sharjah Cricket Ground is small, but unless he scores similarly at bigger venues, he will continue to be out of the India starting eleven.

The flavor of the match was one Rahul Tewatia. At the start he tried to slog the spinners, without using his feet, and continued to miss ball after ball. At one point he was batting on 17 off 23 balls. But as if Samson departing was the signal Tewatia needed, he hit 5 sixes off Cottrell in one over. And another off Shami in the next, virtually finishing the match, scoring 53 off 31.

Then came Jofra Archer, a repeat performance from last time, hitting sixes at will, before Tom Curran hit a four to finish off the match. In my humble opinion, not much should be read into the batting and bowling performances in this match, specially the bowling. And no bowler should be dropped based on his performances in Sharjah for the rest of the tournament.

Onto the next one, in Dubai.

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