Skipper Sanju Samson did a world of good for his chances ahead of the T20 World Cup team selection by hammering a 33-ball unbeaten 71 and overshadowing a similar effort by Lucknow Super Giants captain K.L Rahul (76 off 48 balls) as Rajasthan Royals romped to a seven-wicket victory in Match 44 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 on Saturday.

Samson, who struck his fourth half-century of IPL 2024 off 28 balls, shared an unbeaten 121-run partnership with Dhruv Jurel, who scored his maiden IPL half-century as Rajasthan Royals cruised to 199/3 in 19 overs in response to Lucknow Super Giants' 196/5 made possible by Rahul\s superb innings and his 115-run partnership with Deepak Hooda (50).

Samson, who had scores of 82*, 69, 68* before Saturday's superb knock, blasted seven boundaries and four sixes in another brilliant innings to help Rajasthan Royals recover from two quick wickets and with help from Jurel, who scored 52 not out off 34 balls, raised 121 runs for the fourth wicket partnership to guide RR to a comfortable victory at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium here.

With this win, table toppers Rajasthan Royals moved up to 16 points from eight wins from nine matches, opening up a big six-point gap at the top of the table. LSG remained in fourth position with 10 points, the same as Kolkata Knight Riders (2nd), Sunrisers Hyderabad (3rd) and Delhi Capitals (5th). They have played nine matches while KKR and SRH have played eight matches each. DC are through with 10 matches so far.

Chasing 197 for victory, Rajasthan Royals got off to a fine start with Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal raising 50 runs for the opening wicket partnership. Buttler struck 34 off 18 balls while Jaiswal managed 24 off the same number of balls.

Both of them were untroubled by the LSG bowling, which lacked serious pace in the form of young tearaway Mayank Yadav, who was expected to recover from his injury and play this match.

Buttler, who had blazed to an unbeaten 107 off 60 balls against KKR 10 days back, faced a couple of anxious moments against Matt Henry and Mohsin Khan, picked pace by hitting Henry for a big six, shuffling across and lapping it over the keeper. He struck a four and scored three off Henry followed by a boundary in the fifth over. He hit Yash Thakur for a four in the sixth over before the bowler returned to get revenge, castling the batter with a slower one.

Jaiswal fell on the same score as RR slumped to 60/2 in the seventh over and when Riyan Parag followed him back into the dugout for 14 off 11 balls, Rajasthan Royals fell to 78/3 and the innings was looking to come apart.

However, skipper Sanju Samson held the innings together and along with Dhruv Jurel raised an unbeaten 121-run partnership for the fourth wicket as Rajasthan Royals capitalised on some shoddy performance by LSG in the field. LSG grassed a couple of catches, failed to capitalise on a dreadful mix-up between Samson and Jurel to affect a runout and also misfielded on a couple of occasions.

Rajasthan Royals had applied the brakes in the middle and death overs, but LSG could not do so with the ball as Sanju Samson finished the match with a flurry of shots, hitting Mohsin Khan for a big six after the bowler had failed to run him out at the non-striker's end. He followed that up with a six off the last ball of the over after he and Jurel scored a single each in between.

In the 19th over, Samson hammered a four and a six off successive balls off Yash Thakur to finish the match and seal victory for RR.

Samson had started slowly and waited for his chances before exploding into action. He came in at 60/1 and saw his team go down to 78/3, so his first seven shots were for singles. A four off veteran Amit Mishra was followed by a couple of boundaries against Thakur. Ravi Bishnoi was also mistreated as Samson hit him for back-to-back fours in the 16th over. A reverse-hit four off Krunal Pandya over point fielder was his best shot of the day before his power-hitting in the last couple of overs. Samson completed his half-century off 28 balls as he went after the bowling with 84 needed off 48 deliveries.

Jurel was the more aggressive of the two Samson went berserk towards the end. In the 14th over, Jurel scythed, scooped and pulled Mohsin Khan for 4, 6, 4. Off the fourth ball of the over, Yash Thakur failed to time his jump and palmed the ball over at third man for a single. Jurel was dropped once again by Jurel off Mohsin Khan near the short-third region as the ball raced to the fence.

Jurel completed his maiden IPL fifty with a single off Mohsin Khan, reaching the mark in 31 balls.

Amit Mishra and Krunal Pandya were the best bowlers for LSG on the park on Saturday night as they fell short by a round 20 runs and then performed poorly in the field to further hamper their chances.

Asked to bat first, KL Rahul blasted a 48-ball 76, reaching a cautious half-century off 31 balls, while Hooda scored a 31-ball 50 as LSG recovered from a precarious 11/2 in the second over to post a good score.

LSG got off to a poor start as Quinton de Kock, after hitting back-to-back boundaries to Trent Boult in the first over, was cleaned up on the third ball by the left-handed New Zealand pacer with one that nipped back a bit and went past the opener's bat, which came down late, to crash into the stumps.

Sandeep Sharma accounted for Marcus Stoinis on the last ball of the second over as the ball swung in and went past to disrupt the furniture, reducing LSG to 11/2 in two overs.

However, LSG recovered well from the twin setbacks thanks to Rahul and Hooda as they raised 115 runs in quick time for the third wicket partnership. Rahul got his third half-century while Deepak Hooda got his first half-century in 19-odd matches.

Rahul scooped, drove, pulled and swept superbly in an excellent rearguard knock, hitting eight fours and two sixes -- the only two sixes of the innings a far cry compared to the last couple of matches in which teams hit maximums in double figures. In contrast, RR batters hammered nine maximums.

After a cautious start, Rahul opened up by hitting Boult for a four off an in-swinging yorker and was lucky to survive a ball from Ashwin that darted in, just managing to sweep it away to the boundary. The LSG captain continued to flourish, hitting back-to-back boundaries off Yuzvendra Chahal in the seventh over -- caressing a half-volley through covers and following it up with a sweep behind square and the spinner strayed to left.

The 32-year-old right-handed batter hammered Avesh Khan for 21 in the eighth over, hitting his first six off the second delivery before hammering another six off a no-ball and following it up with a four off the free-hit. Just when it looked like he would reach the three-figure mark, Rahul got out as Avesh Khan got his revenge as Boult picked a simple catch at deep backward point.

Hooda drove, cut, swept and used the switch-hit well to score an exact fifty, hitting Boult for boundaries off successive balls. His four off Chahal in the 12over was his best shot of the night as he hammered seven fours in his 31-ball 50.

Rajasthan Royals pulled back things a bit in the death overs, conceding seven and six runs in the 18th and 19th overs before Ayush Badoni (18 not out) and Krunal Pandya (15*) scored 12 runs off the final over to ensure they reached a par score on this ground.

Brief scores:

Lucknow Super Giants 196/5 in 20 overs (K.L Rahul 76, Deepak Hoods 50; Sandeep Sharma 2-31) lost to Rajasthan Royals 199/3 in 19 overs (Jos Buttler 34, Sanju Samson 71 not out, Dhruv Jurel 52 not out; Amit Mishra 1-20, Marcus Stoinis 1-3) by seven wickets.

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