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Is Jofra Archer underrated as a batsman? And can Sanju Samson hold on to his form this IPL?

Also: why are there so many sixes in Sharjah?

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
Sanju Samson rolls out a reverse sweep  •  BCCI

Sanju Samson rolls out a reverse sweep  •  BCCI

Can Sanju Samson buck his trend and carry his good form deep into the IPL?
After hitting a 32-ball 74 against the Chennai Super Kings and a 42-ball 85 against the Kings XI, it seems Samson can do very little wrong this season. This start is nothing new for Samson, though. He has been a supremely good starter in past IPL seasons too. The question that needs answering is whether he can keep this momentum going - a point of concern in his batting since IPL 2017.
In 2017, 30% of Samson's runs came in his first two games. In 2018, his first-three innings contributed 45.5% of his season's runs and in 2019 his first three outings earned him 41% of the season's runs.
It is also worth noting that both his half-centuries have come in Sharjah, which is the only venue where teams have scored over 200 in each of the four batting innings so far.
How underrated is Jofra Archer the batsman?
In 100 T20s, Archer has batted 51 times, facing an average of 6.09 balls per innings, but that low figure is probably because he usually comes in with very few balls left - subsequently, he has been not out 26 times. His 459 T20 runs have come at a strike rate of 147.58, and 250 of his runs have come in fours and sixes - a boundary-percentage of 54.47% and a ball-per-boundary ratio of 5.86.
That he can be a game changer with the bat came to the fore in the Royals' win against the Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2020 when he struck his second, third and fourth ball for a hat-trick of sixes in a 30-run over that pushed the Royals from 186 in 19 overs to 216 in 20. Royals ended up winning that match by 16 runs. It was a skill he repeated again against the Kings XI today, when the first two balls he faced after Robin Uthappa's dismissal went for sixes, bringing the target down from 21 off 11 balls to 9 off 9. On both occasions, he did that against international bowlers in Lungi Ngidi and Mohammed Shami.
Having scored 40 off 11 balls this season, the Royals could consider giving him the opportunity to play more than just a few balls in the coming games.
Why did Rajasthan Royals send Rahul Tewatia in at No. 4? And why did he struggle in the early stages of his innings?
Royals captain Steven Smith said after the game that Tewatia had impressed all in the Royals' camp by hitting plenty of big shots in the nets. A combination of that, along with a T20 strike rate of more than 150 and the fact that he was the only left-hand batsman in the Royals' XI probably prompted his promotion to No. 4 as a pinch-hitter.
Sending in a left-hand batsman gained significance because the Kings XI had two legbreak bowlers in M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi, who together had a maximum of six overs up their sleeves when Tewatia walked in after the dismissal of Steven Smith in the ninth over. Traditionally, a legbreak bowler turns the ball into the left-hand batsman, creating a natural arc to hit straight or across the line.
However, the reason Tewatia struggled early on - he was on eight runs off 19 balls at one stage - possibly was because the Kings XI introduced offspin in the form of Glenn Maxwell against him, and Bishnoi brought out his googlies. It's not that Tewatia wasn't picking the googlies, but that he couldn't execute the inside-out shots over cover. The only six he hit off Bishnoi was off his 20th ball, when he came down the track, effectively cutting down the amount the ball could turn, and then hitting it over long-off.
When Sheldon Cottrell, a left-arm seamer, bowled the 18th over to Tewatia from over the wicket, the angle coming into him worked in his favour, and he clattered five sixes, taking his score of 17 in 23 balls to 47 in 29 balls.
In hindsight, we wonder whether KL Rahul should've handed the 18th over to Ashwin instead of Cottrell, considering how much Tewatia was struggling against Bishnoi. Ashwin had bowled just one over in the match till then, but then traditionally spinners are kept away from the death overs. Tewatia duly feasted on Cottrell instead.
Why is Sharjah seeing such high totals?
In the four batting innings in Sharjah this season, a total of 865 runs have been scored in 79.3 overs, at an economy of 10.88 runs per over.
The pitch hasn't been as conducive to the pace bowlers, as has been the case on the semi-grassy decks on offer in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Also the smaller ground dimensions in Sharjah have played a role.
Let's compare the dimensions of Abu Dhabi - based on the game played there on Saturday between the Knight Riders and the Sunrisers - and Sharjah - based on today's game - from one end. The straight boundary at Abu Dhabi was 77m long; in Sharjah it was 73m. The boundaries at long-off and long-on were 74m and 77m respectively in Abu Dhabi, but in Sharjah it was 71m and 65m. The square boundaries in Abu Dhabi were 65m and 73m, in Sharjah they were 60m and 61m. Lastly, the third-man and fine-leg boundaries in Abu Dhabi were 59m and 64m, while they were 58m and 55m in Sharjah.
So, shots that just clear the boundary in Sharjah are likely to offer chances on the boundary in Abu Dhabi. So far in this IPL, in two Sharjah matches a total of 62 sixes have been hit. In the other seven games, there have been only 55 sixes.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo