Jos Buttler was just another 17-year-old budding cricketer from England, waiting for his opportunity to break into Somerset’s senior team, when Rajasthan Royals won its first and only Indian Premier League (IPL) title in 2008.
Around the same time, a 13-year-old Sanju Samson was honing his skills in Thiruvananthapuram, hoping that his career would flourish some day. Both Samson and Buttler watched the IPL final on television and were inspired by the way Shane Warne guided a ‘rookie team’ to victory against a star-studded Chennai Super Kings and clinched the title.
While neither played under Warne – the captain – they only heard folklore of how the Australian spin legend, who passed away in March, made heroes out of raw talents.
Since 2008, an IPL final berth had eluded Royals.
But at the Narendra Modi International Stadium on Friday evening, Buttler scored his fourth century of the tournament (106 not out, 60b, 10×4, 6×6) and paired with Samson to knock out Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets and storm into the final of the tournament — after 14 long years!
After Prasidh Krishna (three for 22) and Obed McCoy (three for 23) restricted Royal Challengers to 157 for eight, despite a 42-ball-58 by Rajat Patidar, Royals got off to a breezy start as Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal forged a 61-run opening partnership.
Chasing 158, Jaiswal hammered two sixes and a four off Mohammed Siraj to pick up 16 runs from the first over, setting the tone. The youngster from Mumbai looked aggressive before being caught by Virat Kohli at point off Josh Hazlewood.
After Jaiswal’s exit, Buttler rebuilt with Samson. While the Royals captain took time to settle down, Buttler tore into the RCB bowlers, hitting Harshal Patel and Shahbaz Ahmed for a flurry of fours. As the two looked confident, Royals reached 112 runs in 11 overs. But just when it looked like they would get over the line at a canter, Sanju was stumped by Dinesh Karthik off a Wanindu Hasaranga delivery.
And with 45 runs needed, Buttler ensured there was no slip-up. The Englishman, however, got a reprieve on 66 with Karthik putting down a sitter off Harshal.
With Shimron Hetmyer for company, Buttler brought up yet another century in style and sealed it with a six off Harshal, who went wicketless.
Earlier, making the most of an early reprieve, Patidar – whose unbeaten century against Lucknow Super Giants earned his team a spot in Qualifier 2 – became the lone bright spot of the RCB innings as his colleagues struggled against extra bounce generated by Royals pacers.
With Kohli falling early, Patidar reigned supreme, and received some backing from Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell – who chipped in with scores of 25 and 24, respectively. But then, Royals fought back with five wickets in the last five overs, conceding just 34 runs.
Prasidh, who had a nightmarish outing against Gujarat Titans Qualifier 1 at Eden Gardens earlier this week after being hit for three sixes by David Miller, generated good bounce and made most of the conditions. With him and McCoy in action, RCB’s middle-order crumbled.
A spirited show not only helped them bounce back from the horror night against Titans but also boosted Royals’ confidence ahead of the summit clash against the same opponent.
Titans, here comes the Royals!