Rajasthan Royals' captain Sanju Samson believes it will soon be a norm rather than an exception for well-set batters to deny singles in the death overs. Earlier this week, Samson's decision to retain strike off the penultimate ball off the chase against the Punjab Kings erupted into instant debate as the Royals lost their opening match of the 2021 IPL by four runs.
The incident remained a talking point when Chris Morris, who had been refused the strike by Samson against the Kings, steered the Royals home with two balls to spare in their next game against the Delhi Capitals. The Royals needed 27 runs in the last two overs, with three wickets in hand, and Morris hit four sixes in the space of 10 balls to complete a spectacular finish.
Writing in his Sunday column for the Hindustan Times, Samson said he had no regrets about the denied single. "The game is evolving and very soon in the future you won't be seeing singles being attempted at that stage," Samson wrote. "If a batsman fancies a particular bowler, he should farm the strike and go for it. It has absolutely nothing to do with ego; just the simple demands of the moment and the team. Winning is everything."
Chasing a massive 222 to win, the Royals began the final over of their match against the Kings needing 13 for victory. Samson had already reached his century, while Morris had just arrived at the crease, and was batting on 1 off 3 balls. Both batters struggled to find big hits off the first three deliveries of the final over, delivered by the left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh. Samson then hit a six to bring the target down to five runs from the final two deliveries.
Samson hit the next ball to wide long-off but stayed his ground even though Morris was keen to take the run. On Friday, Morris said his intention was to run two because he was confident of his speed between wickets and that, even if he failed, he would be running to the danger end anyway. "Look, I was going to run back no matter what to sacrifice [my wicket] because Sanju was hitting it so sweetly," Morris told Star Sports on Friday. "People underestimate how quick I actually I am: I might have skinny legs, and thin calves, but cheetahs don't have calves, so I'm quite quick. Sanju was playing like a dream the other night, so I wouldn't have been too upset if he hit that last ball for six for the winning runs."
It came down to a few meters in the end, with Samson caught on the edge of the cover boundary while attempting the winning hit.
Samson said he did not speak to Morris about the denied single because the pair had already agreed to a plan. "I know everyone wants to know if I spoke to Chris after I kept the strike for the final ball against Punjab," Samson wrote in his column. "To begin with, we were talking while the situation was unfolding itself. So, just before the 19th over began, we made it clear that I will be taking most of the strike; that even if I couldn't hit a four or a six, we would be looking for twos to get me back on strike.
"It was only natural that we would be doing the same in the final over as well. This was clear to Morris, me and the team management. Therefore, no, I did not have to go to him after the game and explain myself for not taking the single off the penultimate ball - it was absolutely clear to both of us. Look, cricket is a really funny game. That night, I was also striking it so cleanly and still ended up getting out for a cheap score in the very next match. It was the reverse for Chris. He was finding it a bit tough to strike the ball against Punjab but everything was coming out of the middle of the bat versus Delhi."
Samson also had the backing of Kumar Sangakkara, who took charge this season as the Royals' team director. "Sanju backed himself to get the job done and he nearly did," Sangakkara said in the media briefing after the loss against the Kings. "Sometimes when you know you are hitting the ball well and you are in form and you believe that you can do it, you have got to take that responsibility. That is really encouraging to see Sanju do that. You can always talk about a missed single here or there, but the crucial thing for me is [the] player's belief and attitude and commitment into what they know their strengths are. And Sanju took it upon himself to finish that game, he just fell a few yards short. Next time I believe that he will hit it 10 yards further to win us the game."