Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes of the Rajasthan Royals square drives against the Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2020 game in Abu Dhabi on October 25, 2020. Image Credit: @IPL

Class is permanent, and form is temporary. The saying’s almost a cliché in cricket. But the Rajasthan Royals provided more evidence of it in their successful chase of Mumbai Indians’ imposing total on Sunday night.

Class, world-class, there’s plenty of it in Rajasthan. Skipper Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer could walk into any team in the world. But that class has not translated into victories in IPL 2020. Simply because, apart from Buttler and Archer, all others were misfiring.

Rajasthan has the batting power to overhaul huge totals; it’s just that they haven’t been able to string together partnerships to chase down even relatively modest targets. So when Mumbai posted 195 in Abu Dhabi, it seemed beyond Rajasthan’s reach. A winning total it was, until Stokes and Sanju Samson stamped their class on IPL.

Stokes and Samson were struggling for form. Stokes is the best allrounder in the world. No question about that. He joined the team late and haven’t trained until then. The displays in the last few games didn’t instil confidence as he tended to go hard at the ball rather than allow his timing to take over.

Samson was at his best in the first two games, playing significant roles in Rajasthan’s wins. After that, his form dipped along with his team’s. He seemed rushed and too eager to play his shots. Too eager to hit sixes. His timing has been good; it’s just that he appeared to be in undue haste.

That changed in the last few games, where he seemed to take time to settle in. On Sunday, Stokes’ scintillating strokeplay allowed Samson to play himself in, and he didn’t attempt too many sixes too soon. The result was a good score, a good partnership and a sterling win.

What’s remarkable about the win was Buttler wasn’t called upon to play a role in it. So the eight-wicket could mask late middle-order batting worries. But the chase offered a batting template for Rajasthan: some brisk runs in the powerplay without losing too many wickets, and partnerships in the middle-overs to set up the slog-over surge.

Archer on target

Archer continues to be Rajasthan’s only reliable wicket-taking weapon. He’s prised out Quinton de Kock very early in Sunday’s game, and Smith should have brought him back for at least for an over when Mumbai were in trouble at 107/4. A wicket there may have sent Mumbai into a tailspin.

It also underscores how thin the Rajasthan attack is. And that’s why Mumbai wriggled out of a crisis, allowing Hardik Pandya to go berserk at the death. So bowling is one area where Rajasthan should look at improving in the next auction.

Mumbai too showed their class. They bounced back after the early loss of De Kock, and even when they lost three quick wickets in the middle overs. That’s what a champion side does. And that’s what Mumbai did, with Hardik (60 off 21) providing the final flourish.

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But they were beaten by a couple of world-class players. An unbroken 152-run stand has to be a winning one. That came from Stokes (107 off 60) and Samson (54 off 31). That came from Rajasthan.

Was it too late? We shall wait and find out.