Kolkata: An interesting sub-plot of the Rajasthan Royals-Delhi Capitals match on Thursday was the match-up between Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant - two dashing young wicketkeeper-batsmen who are new captains in this edition of IPL. While it was a combination of a resurgent David Miller and the top grosser Chris Morris which earned Royals their first points, it appeared that Samson may have won the battle of captains’ wits in his own way.
Pant, now 23 and certainly the hottest property in the race for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s throne, scored the brownie points as a batsman when he paced his innings with a new-found maturity to score 51 off 32 balls as wickets kept falling around him. What was interesting was that it comprised nine hits to the fence, but no sixes, as Pant shunned the aerial route without sacrificing on his strike-rate. Samson, on the other hand, was back to his profligate self again after a brilliant century in the first game when he slashed at an awaygoing delivery from Kagiso Rabada to be caught behind for four.
Samson’s was the third wicket in Royals chase to make it 17 for three, and the Royals think tank (read: Kumar Sangakkara) need to be worried about this streak in his batting - where he enthralls and exasperates in turn. However, the 27-year-old from Kerala impressed with his composure and tactical accumen as a captain better than Pant - who looked more a work in progress in his new role.
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There was definitely a surprise element in Royals’ move to play three left-arm pacers in young and impressive Chaitanya Sakariya, Royals loyalist Jaydev Unadkat and Mustafizur Rehman, the canny Bangladesh bowler. Unadkat, a former Indian bowler who has the knack of picking up wickets but had often let the team down in crucial moments in the past by being expensive, looked to have worked on his change of pace a lot and the way he lured a batsman like Ajinkya Rahane to a false stroke for caught and bowled was quite praiseworthy.
It was to Samson’s credit that he used all three well, while he showed his capability to think on his feet when on seeing that his death overs specialist Morris was getting the stick, he threw the ball to Sakariya for the last over. The young man did not disappoint his captain and was impressive right through, despite not being able to finish with a wicket.
Pant, on the other hand, may have missed a trick or two during the Royals’ chase. He failed to utilise the full quota of Ravi Ashwin, who had gone only 14 runs in three overs, and has a brilliant record against left-handers. It would have been interesting to use him against a well-set Miller while Tom Curran, who took a hiding, was kept for the last over instead someone like Woakes.
Both captains, however, gave it their all and took brilliant diving catches apiece on the leg side. It will be interesting to watch who has the last laugh in their second leg clash.