Joe Root, the former England captain, stands at an even six-feet tall (1.83 metres). On the mid-on boundary at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, on Sunday, he lept as high as his body would allow but was perhaps a few centimetres too short to get a solid grip on the ball to keep it in play.
A few deliveries later, Sandeep Sharma’s foot was a centimetre over the line – a no ball – rendering Jos Buttler’s seemingly match-winning catch inconsequential. From the resulting free hit, Abdul Samad launched a shot over the boundary to help the then last-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad pick up an improbable win over the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League.
On Sunday, in a stadium that has a straight boundary around 75 metres in length, just a few centimetres – on two different occasions – made all the difference, as SRH chased down the Royals’ 215-run target, with four wickets to spare, on the last ball of the match.
“The emotions changed quite quickly at the end. Nice for us as a team to get over the line. It means a lot to the guys. Someone like Samad, who works hard and only bats when he’s expected to, to get 15 off an over is not easy,” said SRH captain Aiden Markram at the post-match presentation.
“The guys contributed around him and a good start helps you chase down good totals.”
The visitors needed 17 runs to win in the last over of play. With 15 needed off five, Samad struck a shot towards long-on, and he got just enough elevation to see the ball bounce out of the left hand of Root and over the ropes.
With five needed off the last ball, Samad’s shot fell straight into the grateful grasp of Buttler at long-off.
Sharma raised an arm in celebration, the festivities began in the Royals’ dugout while SRH lamented what they thought was a seventh loss in the campaign.
Then off went the siren to signal that Sharma had overstepped. The SRH batter made no mistake from the resultant free-hit.
“We all know that’s what IPL gives you. Matches like this is what makes IPL so special. You can never feel like you’ve won the game,” said Royals captain Sanju Samson after the match.
“I knew the opponent could win it, they were batting quite well. But I was confident with Sandeep, he has won us a game from a similar situation. He had done it again today but that no ball ruined our result.
“We batted really well to put that kind of a score on this wicket, but they batted very sensibly and I think credit has to go to them.”
Royals put up a commendable score of 214/2 in the first innings, powered by Buttler (95 off 59) and an unbeaten Samson’s 66 off 38.
In response, Abhishek Sharma came up with an impressive knock off 55 off 34, and Rahul Tripathi scored 47 off 29 to keep SRH in the hunt. But a few solid, quickfire cameos from the hard-hitting Heinrich Klaasen (26 off 12) and Glenn Phillips (a player of the match-winning 25 off seven), along with Samad’s 17 off seven got SRH the win
“We always knew with a quick outfield like this you can always score more than you expect because the ball keeps flying. We kept that in the back of our minds. Ultimately, you have to be aggressive when you chase a total like this,” Markram said.
“The openers got a great start, Tripathi kept the momentum going. There were a few cameos – Klassy and Glenn, and then Samad to finish it off.
Asked about batting, and delivering, under pressure, Markram added: “You’ve got to train it, no doubt about that. You have to put yourself under that pressure in the nets. It’s such a difficult period to bat. You’re playing high-risk cricket and more often than not, you might not do well,” he said.
“That’s when the temperament comes in, and dealing with those couple of setbacks and having the belief that you can still get the job done.”
The Royals also had to deal with that moment of pressure when the siren went off and they realised the victory they thought they had achieved had not been complete.
“It’s a no ball you have to do it again, it’s as simple as that,” Samson added.
“Sandeep knew what to do, but in the mindset, there will be a small change for a few seconds when you feel the job is done. Almost everyone was celebrating. But that is the nature of the game, you can’t overstep at that point of the match.”
The Royals have now lost three on the trot and continue to sit in fourth place in the IPL table, with 10 points after 11 matches (five wins and six losses).
The Hyderabad-franchise overtake Delhi Capitals on net-run rate, winning four from their 10 matches so far this season.
The Royals had two half-centurions, with Buttler being just five runs short off a century. They had Yuzvendra Chahal finish with excellent bowling figures of 4/29 in four overs – to level Dwayne Bravo’s all-time IPL record of most wickets taken.
But they fell short of the line by a few centimetres.