<
>

Samson enthralls with old-school skill

Star turn

The boundaries are shorter, the bats are broader and batting tracks feel even flatter at the modestly sized Chinnaswamy Stadium. These elements could combine to elicit brute force from batsmen, but not Sanju Samson. The 23-year-old proved there's still value to be had from batting with finesse, his unbeaten 92 a testament to those old-school virtues.

That's not to say he couldn't muscle it when he had to. The general grouse against Samson coming into the season was his lack of a power game. Going by this innings, there has been considerable work done on that aspect of his game. It's perhaps because of this mix of skills that Samson has managed to hold the No. 3 spot in a batting line-up where five of the top six are capable of opening.

By the time he walked in to bat, Ajinkya Rahane had already laid a strong platform with his 20-ball 36. The need of the hour for Royals was to sustain their brisk run rate, but Samson went a step further. The manner in which he lined up length deliveries and hit sixes in the arc between long-on and long-off was the hallmark of his innings. This gave Royals a lift of the kind they hadn't anticipated. Rahane said later that they had hoped for 160-170, but they finished with 217; the last five overs cost RCB 13, 15, 16, 17 and 27.

Samson scored 39 from his last eight balls. Those eight balls read: 6, 6, 6, 4, 4, 6, 6, 1. At a venue where the ball regularly flies off the bats of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, young Samson out-hit the superstars comfortably, silencing a partisan crowd.

The wow moment

Samson saved some of his most stunning strokes for the last. Standing his ground and reading lengths as if his brain had been programmed just to do that as soon as the bowler released the ball, he launched Chris Woakes for 6, 4 and 4 off the last three balls of the penultimate over.

The first of those hits was mere a loft through the line, so much that Samson looked at his bat in disbelief. The bottom-handed power shone through as he cleared long-on. Woakes then delivered a wide yorker, in anticipation of the batsman trying to make room. Samson got low, looking to carve it through point but opened the bat face at the very last second to squeeze it wide of the wicketkeeper and beat third man. Then he backed away to loft through the covers. The man inside the ring briefly entertained the possibility of a catch, only to see the ball fly away and bisect deep extra cover and long-off with precision.

The numbers

  • Sanju Samson's 92 not out featured the most sixes hit in an IPL innings before hitting a single four; he hit eight of his ten sixes before hitting his first four

  • His ten sixes were also the most in an innings by a Royals batsman, and the second-most overall behind M Vijay's 11 en route to 127 against Royals in 2010

What they said

"He's someone who can play this sort of innings on his day and, when our [Indian] youngsters do well, it creates a pool of talented Indian players."
Virat Kohli on Sanju Samson