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Mercurial Samson goes big when it matters

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Star of the match: Sanju Samson (2:42)

Ajit Agarkar and Brad Hogg named Sanju Samson the All Star of the day for scoring the first century of the Indian T20 league 2017 (2:42)

Star turn

Deepak Chahar had dismissed Aditya Tare off his first ball in the second over of the game. There was swing on offer too, and the home team had reason to celebrate as excitedly as they did after picking that wicket. Sanju Samson was promoted ahead of Karun Nair and came in at No. 3.

He started crisply, striking six boundaries off his first 14 balls to race to 31 inside the fifth over. Any effect of that early wicket was offset rapidly, with Delhi putting on 41 runs off 18 balls after it fell. Samson's boundaries were elegant, his attitude was positive, and his pace perfect as Sam Billings got to play himself in. By the end of the Powerplay, Billings had got in on the act and Daredevils had put on 62; a far cry from last year's average run-rate of 6.91 during the phase - the lowest among all teams.

The middle overs weren't as fruitful for Samson, as Pune's slower bowlers strangled the innings. For most of the middle overs, Samson was a completely different player. The fluidity from early on was replaced by shots with angled bats, miscued pulls and a general affinity for conservation. In fact, after a square drive at the start of the fifth over, Samson hadn't hit a single boundary till he went past fifty - and even after that toe-ended six over long-off, he had made 30 off 33 balls between over 5 and 15.

What he did do well in that phase, though, was play his part in a 53-run stand with Rishabh Pant for the third wicket. It dragged Delhi to 124, and its value as a platform to launch from came immediately after Pant fell; Samson walked across his stumps and executed a whip off his chest for four off the very next ball.

It was to be the start of a second phase of dominance. He hit three sixes and a four as he flew past both his highest IPL score and his highest score in T20s overall, before sealing a maiden century by lofting Adam Zampa over long-on.

The wow moment

Samson's most successful shot against the quick bowlers was the square drive. Two of his best came against Ashok Dinda in the third over. But the moment that began his surge towards a century and Delhi's eventual tally of 64 off the last three overs came at the start of the 18th over. Dinda returned for his third over, having conceded 17 off his first two, and was immediately put under pressure when Samson stood tall and lifted the first ball over long-off. The angle of that delivery should have induced a straighter shot, but Samson's wristwork helped him generate power on what was essentially a straight-batted slice.

It forced Dinda to go short and Samson reaped the benefit with a hooked six. Dinda, clearly a spent force in death overs so far, then dished out a full toss that went for four next ball. It turned into a 19-run over.

The numbers

  • Samson hadn't scored a T20 fifty in his last 15 innings - a streak that spanned nearly a year

  • This was Samson's longest innings in the IPL - 63 balls, going past the 60 off 48 he made when he last scored a fifty

  • Five of his six 50-plus scores in the IPL have come at No. 3

What they said

"I love watching Sanju Samson play cricket! He's some talent!"
Brendon McCullum, on Twitter

"You need to have bad times to learn about life. If you keep on achieving success, you don't learn. My past has helped me to become a better cricketer and I'm happy with my present."
Sanju Samson