It was Sharjah. It was the Rajasthan Royals chasing. There was a batsman whose struggles in the middle meant the task became tougher. However, there was no fairy-tale ending for Yashasvi Jaiswal the way there was one for Rahul Tewatia.
In October 2019, Jaiswal waltzed into national cricketing headlines with his feats in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the BCCI's 50-overs domestic competition. In the space of a fortnight, he had racked up scores of 113, 22, 122, 203 and 60*, his run only coming to an end when rain knocked Mumbai out of the competition. In October 2020, drenched in sweat rather than rain, Jaiswal's T20 career stands at 40 runs from three matches, with an unflattering average of 13.33 and a strike-rate (90.90) that's less than his List A figures (91.53).
In between, he was named Player of the Tournament at the Under-19 World Cup, scoring nearly one-and-a-half times more runs than the second-highest run-getter at the tournament.
The step up from tearing apart domestic bowlers and lording it over Under-19 attacks has not been smooth. Then again, Jaiswal has never faced anything like Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje banging the ball into him at 145 clicks either. It's one of those things that no amount of net sessions can prepare you for. In fact, before IPL 2020, Jaiswal had never played a T20 match at the senior level, ever.
Against the Delhi Capitals on Friday, Jaiswal played his longest stint in a T20 game. His 34 off 36 wasn't pretty. It was a collection of nudging the ball around, punctuated feebly with across-the-line slogs. It sucked momentum out of the Royals' chase with the efficiency of a vacuum cleaner.
Was his role to anchor the innings while those around him went for their shots? Jaiswal's shot selection - he didn't actively seek to hit boundaries - suggested that. Even so, anchoring a chase that needs more than nine runs per over from the start cannot be done with a strike-rate barely touching 100. When asked about his young opener's role, the captain Steven Smith hinted that Jaiswal was in fact trying to get on with things, but couldn't.
"Yeah, look it's an interesting one," Smith said at the post-match press conference. "He's very young. He's only played a handful of games so he's still finding his feet. Today, talking to him in the middle, it was about trying to just keep going, which he was finding hard a little bit. But you know he's young, and the more he plays the more he'll learn."
The odds were certainly against Jaiswal. He was part of one of the IPL's weaker batting line-ups, facing one of its strongest bowling attacks. The pitch wasn't a typical Sharjah wicket, with the ball gripping on the surface. Harshal Patel said after the match that he and Shimron Hetmyer had reckoned 170 would be above par when they got together in the 14th over of the Capitals' innings; they ended up getting 184.
It was a situation every bit as different as the distance between UAE and Alur, the venue of Jaiswal's October 2019 heroics, represents.
In Alur, Jaiswal had ticked off all the boxes that needed checking to be anointed as the 'next big thing'. He was a top-order batsman in India who has scored big, impressive runs. He played for Mumbai, and therefore had automatically got the 'Mumbai school of batting' and 'khadoos' stamps. He could drive, but only on the cricket field. He wasn't yet old enough to get behind the wheels of a car, so a 'prodigy' tag was attached too. And he had a heart-warming, rags-to-riches tale.
Alur is far enough north in Bengaluru that it feels like inter-city travel to get there and back. It's the kind of location where you might get an Uber to drop you to, if you are lucky. But not one from where you will get someone to pick you up even if you are prepared to pay in dollars, whose exchange rate with the Indian rupee is likely to rise several points in the time it takes to complete that journey.
Still, even in Alur, Jaiswal was watched by keen eyes. The Indian selectors were there. John Wright was scouting for the Mumbai Indians. Malolan Rangarajan had arrived, on the same mission for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Across those who watched Jaiswal, no one doubted his ability. The Mumbai Indians bid for him at the IPL auctions despite not really having room at the top of the order (or indeed anywhere in the starting XI). Those who really wanted an opener - the Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab - went harder at him until the Royals swooped in late. Jaiswal had four franchises bidding for him during the middle period of the auction, when big monies had already been spent and positions filled.
So what's happened from October 2019 to October 2020? Nothing extraordinary. Jaiswal still has the reservoir of talent that sparked interest a year ago. He's also still a teenager, albeit one who can vote and drive now. And he's an 18-year-old who faced his toughest examination yet, in terms of quality of bowling, doing it moreover with the knowledge that an international audience of millions was watching. He has also not been given a long run at the top of the order, with the Royals having decided to go with Smith there for the initial phase of the tournament.
The IPL is ruthlessly competitive, but it has also become one of the most lucrative stages for talents to be spotted. The competitiveness of this season here and now, will mean that Jaiswal's spot in the starting XI is up for question, never mind any extenuating circumstances. But the way in which franchises back talent and are proved right - recent case in point Varun Chakravarthy - means Jaiswal's future is not as uncertain as his present. October 2019 to October 2020 has already been one giant leap for a teenager. What's needed now is a few small steps in the IPL.