The Sawai Mansingh stadium was a sea of pink, as fans got into the stadium in large numbers to cheer for Rajasthan Royals, one final time in Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL), 2019. The Royals had only won two home games out of the six played before the final home game. The fans though, never lost hope, they kept cheering us on, and encouraging us every ball and every moment of the matches. We didn’t disappoint them, as we trumped Sunrisers Hyderabad by 7 wickets in front of a full-house and moved to the sixth spot on the points table. This win at the SMS is dedicated to all the fans who tirelessly support us day in and day out. A massive Thank You to all of them!

The tosses seem to be going Steve Smith’s way. The coin dropped Rajasthan Royals’ way and Smith had no hesitation in electing to field. The innings got underway in rather sloppy fashion as we mis-fielded a few and gave away a couple of overthrows. Otherwise, Varun Aaron and Oshane Thomas bowled in the right areas. The former got the ball to move a bit early on in the Powerplay as well.

Shreyas Gopal got us the first breakthrough when he deceived Sunrisers skipper, Kane Williamson with a beautiful googly that went on to clip his stumps. SRH managed to cross 50 by the end of the Powerplay without any further casualties.

Manish Pandey looked in sound touch, as he targeted to pick up a boundary an over. He took the attack to the spinners, gathering two boundaries from each of Gopal and Parag’s overs. At the half-way mark in the innings, SRH seemed to be in a decent position, at 86/1.

David Warner who was labouring around, couldn’t pick up a single boundary during his stay at the crease. The Royals kept it extremely tight against the Aussie southpaw who was sitting on four consecutive 50+ scores, and was searching for his fifth to equal Jos Buttler and Virender Sehwag’s record.

Warner perished to an Oshane delivery that he miscued up towards the deep extra cover region. Smith ran backwards and flung himself towards the dropping ball to pull off an absolute blinder. He grazes his right elbow which he had injured in the past, but seemed alright after receiving some medical attention from our physio, John Gloster.

The 15th over proved to be the turn-around point in the innings. Manish Pandey received a bouncy delivery from Gopal. It kicked off the surface and Pandey seemed to have missed the ball. Samson collected it wonderfully and waited for the batsman to make a mistake; which he did. Pandey lifted his back leg momentarily, and Samson made the most of it, whipping the bails off. On replays watched by the third umpire, an edge was also found. Call it a caught behind or a stumping, Pandey had to make his way back on a well-made 61.

From the 15th to the 20th over, the Sunrisers lost a wicket in each over. After Pandey fell in the 15th, Shankar skied one towards deep square leg off Aaron’s bowling. Unadkat made a run for it, slid and took a good, tumbling catch. Unadkat came on to bowl the 17th and deceived Deepak Hooda with an amazing slower one. The batsman lobbed the ball back at Unadkat, who leapt at the right time to pluck the ball out of thin air. In the 18th Oshane got rid of Saha, who edged one through to Samson.

JD was back in business in the 19th over when he had Shakib hole out at long on. And finally, in the 20th over, Unadkat took another fine catch at the short fine leg region. SRH finished with a slight flurry with Rashid Khan hitting a four and a six. Rajasthan Royals had 161 to chase down in the second innings.

Ajinkya Rahane had a new opening partner this time around, as Liam Livingstone joined him. Rahane got things going for us with a gorgeous cover drive that bisected cover and mid off with ease. At the other end, Liam struggled to find his timing early on in his innings, but Rahane kept the run-rate up with two boundaries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the third over.

It was the fourth over that gave the run-rate an uplift. Rashid Khan was introduced in the Powerplay, and both Rahane and Livingstone slog swept him for sixes over mid-wicket. Livingstone unleashed the beast within during the last over of the Powerplay, as he took on Siddharth Kaul with two fours and two sixes.

Liam survived a loud appeal off Rashid’s bowling. SRH reviewed the decision and replays showed that the impact was outside the line of off stump, and the ball would’ve missed the off stick anyway. However, Rashid got rid of Livingstone in the 10th over, as he inside-edged the ball through to the keeper. In his first innings as opener for us, Liam scored 44 runs off 26 balls.

Samson got going with a majestic loft over cover, that sailed into the stands. Rahane tried to play an exquisite inside-out shot, but Warner, at long off, anticipated his move and got to the ball in quick time to complete the catch. Smith joined Samson at the crease after the fall of Rahane’s wicket.

Samson kept going after Kaul, as he smashed two consecutive boundaries in the 13th over. The first one was a lovely shot through point and the second, a disdainful pull through mid-wicket. Smith and Samson ran beautifully between the wickets, applying pressure on the fielders every now and then.

Smith and Samson tried to get to the finish line quickly, but in the process Smith top-edged a pull to fine leg with the score on 148/3. After this wicket, Ashton Turner walked in to bat with five consecutive ducks to boot. He got off the mark with an inside edge to fine leg, and the crowd erupted to cheer the run. Even the Rajasthan Royals dug-out applauded the run, while some of the Sunrisers opponents broke out into smiles.

Sanju Samson hit the winning runs on the first ball of the final over, as he swatted the ball to the mid-wicket fence. The Royals won their second consecutive win, keeping hopes of making it to the Playoffs, alive.

We keep believing right till the end and live by our philosophy of winning from anywhere. It was a splendid effort with both ball and bat. More importantly, it was our final home game of the season, and we wanted to win this for our fans who came in to the SMS and cheered us on, irrespective of the result. Rajasthan Royals have moved up the table to the sixth spot and sit on 10 points, with two games to go. We have momentum on our side, and are looking to use it as a launchpad from here on to win our remaining two games. Halla Bol!

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