Rajasthan Royals captain Sanju Samson hit the first century of the new Indian Premier League season, yet Punjab Kings still came out on top in a high-scoring thriller in Mumbai on Monday.
KL Rahul quickly picked up from where he left off in the Twenty20 competition, the leading run-scorer in the 2020 edition making 91 as the Kings posted 221-6.
Deepak Hooda smashed 64 from just 28 deliveries after Chris Gayle had departed for 40, Rajasthan simply unable to stem the flow of runs despite using eight different bowlers.
However, the Royals had chased down 224 to beat the same opponents in Sharjah last year, and it seemed Samson was steering his team to another sensational run chase when the equation was down to five from the final two balls.
After turning down the chance to run on the penultimate delivery, the right-handed batsman was only able to carve Arshdeep Singh out to the fielder at deep cover, meaning he was dismissed for 119 as his team came up just short.
Jos Buttler (25), Shivam Dube (23) and Riyan Parag (25) all made contributions in support of Samson, though Ben Stokes endured a game to forget as he fell for a three-ball duck after dropping Rahul in the field.
Punjab Kings' skipper made the most of the early reprieve too, helping set a target that – despite the heroics of his opposite number – proved enough, Rajasthan finishing up on 217-7.
Falling apart at the seamers
Left-arm pace bowler Chetan Sakariya marked his IPL debut with 3-31 and also claimed a stunning catch, diving full length to hang on to a chance that sent Kings batsman Nicholas Pooran on his way for a first-ball duck.
Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith found the going tough on their first starts in the second innings, though, as the Australian duo combined for figures of 2-104. Neither had to bowl the final over, left-armer Arshdeep instead left with that responsibility.
Royals run into trouble
Rahul endured a lean time of it for India in the T20 series against England in March, managing just 15 runs in four innings. However, he was at his devastating best when back on duty for Punjab Kings, hitting seven fours and five sixes as he passed 2,000 career runs for the franchise.
A century appeared possible until Rahul Tewatia produced a sensational catch in the deep during the final over. Having flicked the ball up into the air before stepping over the boundary, he regained his balance before pouching the rebound after returning to the field of play.