What seemed like a match that could go down to the wire turned out to be a comfortable outing for the Rajasthan Royals in their opening fixture of the 2024 Indian Premier League. Playing their first match of the season, they picked up a 20 run-win over the Lucknow Super Giants at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.

On a wicket that was described in many ways through the match – two-paced, batter friendly, sometimes “tough” – the Royals batted first after winning the toss and got to a total of 193 for the loss of four wickets, courtesy the heroics of their captain Sanju Samson.

Then the Royals’ bowlers held firm and proved to be economical in crucial situations, building up the pressure on the Super Giants and eventually starving them of runs. They could only manage 173 for 6 at the end of 20 overs.

It is still early in the competition – this was the first match for both teams after all. But it is always good to get the positive start.

Turning point of the match

By the eighth over of the second innings, the Royals were cruising. Super Giants had been reduced to 60 for four and the required run rate started to grow. KL Rahul was at the crease and was joined by hard-hitting Nicholas Pooran.

But the first task the two batters had was to steady the ship. They played it easy to begin with, getting bat to ball and not taking much risks. But once they settled, they started to strike and find the boundary at regular intervals.

Take Rahul’s innings for example. He was on a run-a-ball 24 and suddenly accelerated the scoring, getting to 54 off 38. At the other end, Pooran was hitting strongly.

But just as it seemed the Super Giants could pull off the win, the often understated Sandeep Sharma had Rahul mistime an attempted slog, only to be caught by Dhruv Jurel on 58 off 44.

The wicket came at a moment when the Super Giants had built up some momentum, but with a new batter at the crease, the scoreboard pressure at a high, and the Royals’ bowlers bowling at a steady line and length, the batting team’s run-rate started to dwindle. They would eventually run short.

The Field’s player of the match

This is a relatively easy choice. There were good performances with the ball for the Royals – especially Trent Boult, for his remarkable first two overs, in which he picked up two wickets for five runs. But The Field’s choice for player of the match was the Royals skipper Sanju Samson.

At 29, he is an experienced player and took a few deliveries to assess the tricky pitch. Once he did, he started to play his shots freely and with great effect.

His unbeaten knock of 82 off 52, peppered with three boundaries and six sixes, served well for his team and set them on course for the win.

‘I am a batsman who reacts to the ball’

On Sunday, Samson was playing in his 153rd IPL match. He is a veteran of the league and put up a captain’s performance against the Super Giants.

“I have been given a different kind of a role with a slightly different combination. I have been playing IPL for 10 years, there has to be some experience coming in. I need to spend more time and understand the conditions. And then I can calculate.

“Playing in some ODI’s also helped me to play on these kind of wickets and these kind of venues. This is a good start, but let’s see how it goes.

“It’s all about understanding strengths and weaknesses. I am a batsman who reacts to the ball, no matter if it’s the first ball or the last one. If the ball comes there, I hit there. If it’s here, I hit here. That’s helped me maintain the shape and keep timing it. That’s my strength, so I just do that.”

— Sanju Samson in the post-match presentation