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There was dew, they were chasing a sub-200 target thanks to their bowlers recovering well at the death and they had a deep batting line-up. Most things pointed to Rajasthan Royals having a decent chance of winning their first-ever IPL game in Guwahati, their new home. But they eventually fell short by five runs.
Samson certainly didn't think so.
"Jos wasn't fully fit; he had a stitch on his finger," Sanju Samson said. "The thinking behind Devdutt Padikkal at No. 4 was we knew that they had a left-arm spinner [Harpreet Brar] and legspinner [Rahul Chahar] who would be bowling in the middle overs. So, it was important for us to have a left-hander."
The idea might perhaps have been sound, but Padikkal, who is a specialist opener, struggled at No. 4, making 21 off 26. And when he fell, it left Royals needing 74 off the last five overs. Shimron Hetmyer and Dhruv Jurel, brought in as Impact Player for his IPL debut, nearly blindsided Kings with a 61-run partnership off just 26 balls but it still wasn't enough.
Samson wasn't surprised by Jurel's boundary-hitting skill (he struck three fours and two sixes in 15 balls) and credited both him and the backroom staff for the work they do in the off-season at the Royals academy near Nagpur.
"He has been with us from the last two seasons. Lots and lots of work has gone behind him," Samson said. "Credit to our team management, especially Zubin Bharucha [Director of High Performance at Royals]. When you come to the IPL, you generally have a week's camp. But these guys put in lots of work, I think it was around five to six weeks [of preparation]. Before every domestic tournament, they come over to our academy and hit thousands and thousands of balls. Very happy the way he batted and to have someone like him in the team."
Samson also praised his bowlers for pulling things back after Kings had raced to 152 for 1 after 15 overs, thanks in large part to Prabhsimran Singh's 34-ball 60. Their captain Shikhar Dhawan batted through the innings to make an unbeaten 56-ball 86 but Royals dealt with that challenge well enough, giving away only 45 runs in the last five overs. Yuzvendra Chahal, Ashwin and Jason Holder were the people charged with this task and they each picked up a wicket to keep the total to 197 for 4.
"They [Kings] came out with a really positive mindset, they had a really good powerplay and the momentum just carried on with that," Samson said. "Our bowlers tried to vary their lengths and speed on this small ground. It's a high-scoring venue but we did really well to pull the game a bit back after the start they got. Our bowlers did a reasonably good job."
Royals play one more match at Barsapara Stadium before moving to their traditional home ground in Jaipur. Samson said that they will gain from the loss and be better prepared for their match against Delhi Capitals on Saturday.
"I was expecting dew to come in the second half but it was right there in the first-innings itself," he said. "It will be a high-scoring game our next one too, and we'll be better prepared for it."