First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Punjab's record in Jaipur has been patchy right from the start of the IPL. I had been to the ground for this clash last year, and my team, Rajasthan Royals, had won convincingly. So, my expectations from the home side were high this year. Above all, this was probably my last chance to see Adam Gilchrist on the field, so I wasn't going to miss it at any cost.
Rajasthan Royals. My home city's team comprises of some of the most delightful talents in the world, including Rahul Dravid, Brad Hodge and Shane Watson. They are also a well-behaved team, and are quite often on top of the fairplay charts.
Like Royals' last home game, this was another team effort, with four seamers picking up two wickets each, and a bunch of batsmen contributing the runs. But for me, the star performer was the young 18-year old wicketkeeper, Sanju Samson. He completed three smart catches behind the stumps, and a timely run-out when Praveen Kumar was threatening to do some damage with the bat. Later Samson contributed a gutsy, unbeaten 27 under real pressure to guide Rajasthan over the line - a wonderful effort on his IPL debut.
One thing I'd have changed
Considering that it was a wicket that helped the seamers, and the target wasn't too challenging, Rajasthan could have promoted Brad Hodge to No. 4. He has the technique and experience to counter the moving ball. Stuart Binny's lack of footwork was evident in his dismissal, that put the Royals under some avoidable pressure.
Face-off I relished
Shane Watson v Ryan Harris - two big strong Aussies, one expected to get early wickets, the other expected to provide quick starts. Harris started with a couple of good ones, but once Watson got into his stride, the crowd went delirious. He struck tree fours in the same over, including a couple of convincing shots through midwicket. Harris didn't recover from the early blows until the very end of the innings.
New kid on the block
Playing under a captain who was old enough to be his father, Sanju Samson showed calmness under pressure. First up, he was comfortable behind the stumps in his first big IPL game. The manner in which he ran Praveen out, hitting the middle stump with the batsman trying to sneak a bye, was brilliant. Later, he came in with Rajasthan needing 46 off 43, and played expertly to seal the chase, finishing the game with a lovely stroke over the covers. Dishant Yagnik will probably have to wait for a while before he plays again.
James Faulkner's direct hit to run Manan Vohra out. I was astonished to see how quickly he swooped onto the ball and when he threw, he didn't seem to be in the best position to effect a powerful throw. To makes things tougher, he could see just one stump from where he was stationed. But he threw the stumps down with a wonderful direct hit, catching Vohra short.
The players' dug-outs weren't too far away from where I was sitting, so I could catch a glimpse or two of my favourite stars. Seeing Sreesanth close to the boundary was fun. He looks much bigger in person than he does on TV.
Shot of the day
Shane Watson's cover drive off Parvinder Awana, just before he was dismissed. It was a perfect, crisp and crunchy cover drive. The sound his bat when it hit the ball was music to any cricket-lover's ears. The way the ball sped to the boundary, and the manner in which Watson held the pose after playing the shot got the spectators to stand up and clap in admiration.
As always, it was a very well behaved crowd at the Sawai Mansingh stadium. The ground was fuller than the last game, perhaps prompted by the way the home team played in that one. The noise levels were higher, and the experience was more enjoyable because there were fewer flies in the ground and the stands than last time.
The DJ at the stadium played the Rajasthan anthem Halla Bol every time a Punjab wicket fell, so we heard it several times in the first hour of play. The volume of the music went considerably higher in the strategic time-outs, to keep the crowds' spirits up.
Overall this game was tighter than it seemed. There were hardly any sixes in the game, with the winning team hitting none. How many times do we see that in a T20 game? But for the purists, it was a delight to see the fast bowlers dominate. Edges going to the keeper, the ball moving off the wicket, batsmen having to display tight techniques - it was the kind of stuff I enjoy.
Marks out of 10
I'd give this game 8/10. When rating a T20 game, one has to consider factors like the sixes hit and the scores that were made. Considering that it was a pretty low-scoring affair and that the only two sixes were hit by the visiting batsmen, I'd deduct two marks. Also, the fact that the home team had to scrap for runs in the latter half of their innings took away some of the entertainment.
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