Samson and Jurel seal the Royals’ eighth victory in nine games

Alastair Cook announces retirement from professional cricket

Rajasthan Royals 199 for 3 (Samson 71*, Jurel 52*) beat Lucknow Super Giants 196 for 5 (Rahul 76, Hooda 50, Sandeep 2-31) by seven wickets

The target of 197 that Lucknow Super Giants set Rajasthan Royals may not have seemed like much at the end of the first innings. After all, over the past four days, the 262 and 211 targets had been comfortably chased, while the 257 and 225 totals were also nearly surpassed.

But still, RR were in a tough spot at 78 for 3 after 8.4 overs, having finished the powerplay 60 for 0. Ten overs into the chase, with RR needing 116, ESPNcricinfo’s tipster gave LSG an 87.76% chance of winning. But then Sanju Samson joined forces with an out-of-form Dhruv Jurel, both batsmen scoring half-centuries in a 121-run reply to LSG’s hundred partnership between KL Rahul and Deepak Hooda, and taking the Royals to victory with an over ample.

The result was the Royals’ eighth win in nine games, leaving them six points ahead of Kolkata Knight Riders in second place, and all but securing them a playoff spot with five games in hand.

Samson and Horse mackerel keep calm

Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal had added 60 off 34 balls. But with two deliveries left in the powerplay, Buttler was bowled by Yash Thakur, moving through his crease and missing a full delivery that crashed into the base of leg stump. In the next over, Marcus Stoinis trapped Jaiswal at cover.

LSG had chosen a black soil pitch for this contest and roped in 41-year-old Amit Mishra for the first time this season as an impact player. He was responsible for RR’s impact player Riyan Parag catching him at deep cover too soon after conceding a six. RR was in trouble at the time, but Samson and Jurel got them out of it.

While Samson began his innings with his side’s form (he was among the season’s leading scorers), Jurel had managed just ten runs in his previous three innings in six matches. They took their time, scoring just three runs in the first eight balls of their partnership, before plundering the next two overs for 29 runs. Jurel bowled Mishra for six and Thakur for four, while Samson also got three boundaries.

The 14th over, by left-arm quick Mohsin Khan, turned out to be the turning point of the game. Jurel was bowled twice in that over by Thakur and hit three fours and a six, eventually finishing unbeaten on 52 off 34 balls. Samson’s innings was less risk-laden and he finished the match with a six over fine leg to remain out for 71 off just 33 deliveries.

Quinton De Kock Lost His Stumps To Trent Boult In The First Over Of The Game

Quinton de Kock lost his stumps to Trent Boult in the first over of the gameBCCI

Not exactly a spinner speech

There were some cracks in the pitch in Lucknow, and the ball was expected to close them. The ground was also black, which historically has been more favorable for spin. When LSG batted, RR spinners R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal combined for figures of 8-0-80-1. The lone wicket was Ashwin’s (Deepak Hooda caught from long on) and it was only his second wicket in eight games this season.

The LSG spinners also did not have much success during the chase, even though there was not much dew, with Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi and Mishra bowling a total of seven overs for figures of 1 for 60. While Krunal bowled faster and more flat to concede just 24 from his four overs, Mishra and Bishnoi proved expensive.

RR restricts LSG on departure and arrival

Trent Boult did what he almost always does: attack in the first over. Quinton de Kock had started the match with boundaries off the first two balls, but the third shattered his stumps. And in the second over, Sandeep Sharma deflected the ball through the gap between Stoinis’ bat and pad as he attempted to drive and bowl it.

LSG were 11 for 2 when Hooda joined their captain Rahul, and they recovered at a rapid pace, fighting back by smashing four boundaries in the last two overs of the powerplay. Rahul then took Avesh for 21 in the eighth over, whipping and swinging a six over midwicket and fine leg, and bowling a free for four more. LSG scored 94 for 2 at the halfway point, and Rahul reached 50 off 31 balls. He and Hooda continued the offensive, scoring 32 in the next two overs. Hooda reached his half-century off 30 deliveries before holing out a carrot ball from Ashwin to end his partnership with Rahul on 115 off 62 balls.

With eight overs remaining and plenty of wickets in hand, LSG were primed for a strong finish but it didn’t happen for them. Although they only lost two more wickets, they were those of Nicholas Pooran and Rahul, for 76 off 48 balls, and LSG could only score 25 runs in the last three overs of their innings.

Himanshu Agrawal is Deputy Editor of ESPNcricinfo