Yes, they Khan: Rashid steals it at the death

Afghan all-rounder, in the company of Tewatia, orchestrate thrilling heist vs Royals
Rashid Khan (R) & Spencer Johnson (L) celebrate the winning moment
Rashid Khan (R) & Spencer Johnson (L) celebrate the winning moment | sportzpics

CHENNAI: With 27 balls remaining, Rajasthan Royals may have been excused for feeling home and hosed. Just when Shubman Gill was beginning to show his full reportoire, Yuzvendra Chahal had outsmarted the batter. The opener had already hit two boundaries and was on the charge to take down the wrist-spinner. Sensing Gill’s mood, Chahal altered his line and length and Gill was in no man’s land. Keeper Sanju Samson did the rest.

But that over was the start of an epic Gujarat Titans comeback. After Rajasthan had posted 196, Gujarat stuck to their template of taking it deep. But it looked like their amazing escapologist acts was coming to an end when Gill got out. But a combination of remarkable death overs hitting, some presence of mind and some sloppy time (and game) management from the hosts meant they fell to their first defeat of the season. Gujarat, who had lost three of their first five games, now join four other teams on six points.

Shahrukh Khan, a big-money signing, had strangely been away from the side. Not on Wednesday. With 59 needed off four overs, Shahrukh took the attack to state-mate R Ashwin. Back-to-back boundaries meant were followed by Rahul Tewatia — who else? — getting into the act for his first boundary. Avesh Khan bowled a tight 18th over but it had suddenly become a 60-40 match, with both Tewatia and Rashid Khan capable of the kind of cameos the team needed. With 35 off 12, Samson took the decision to bowl out Kuldeep Sen.

Thrice, he was hit to the boundary as the radar deserted him on a pitch full of runs. To add salt to the wound, Rajasthan had run out of time so they had to bowl the last over with an extra fielder inside the circle (it was some sight to see Kumar Sangakkara urging his players to rush through). 15 off six with four wickets in hand was manageable for Gujarat as long as they got off to a good start. And Rashid found it, putting his elastic wrists to good effect as he moved across the stumps to dump it over square. Two balls later, a lucky outside edge beat the diving Samson to run away for another boundary. Tewatia ran himself out but he had already completed his part in what would be another thrilling heist as Rashid hit the last ball for a four.

Samson sparkles

When the dust settles, the hosts will wonder how they lost a match they had under their control for the first 35 overs or so. A win would have seen them become the first team to start an IPL campaign with five wins on the bounce. Instead, they will have to have a difficult debrief on Thursday morning.

However, they will be pleased with the form of Samson, the batter. He can do no wrong at the moment. While his flamboyance has never been in doubt, he was perceived to be up and down with the bat. Very hot or slightly cold.

In 2024, he has been like the start of the Indian summer. Very, very hot. His 38-ball 68, coupled with Riyan Parag’s 76 off 48, gave the innings some much-needed oxygen post the powerplay. Their 130-run partnership helped the franchise post 196/3 (the third time in as many innings that they have registered a score in excess of 180 while batting first), their highest of the season.

In hindsight, it didn’t prove to be good enough thanks to Gujarat’s Houdini Act. Brief scores: Rajasthan Royals 196/3 in 20 ovs (Parag 76, Samson 68 n.o; Rashid 1/18) lost to Gujarat Titans 199/7 in 20 ovs (Gill 72, Rashid 24 n.o).

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The New Indian Express