Smith helps Royals down Chennai in IPL feast of sixes

Dubai (AFP) –


Skipper Steve Smith cracked a match-winning 69 in Rajasthan Royal's opening Indian Premier League game on Tuesday that produced a record-equalling 33 sixes in the Twenty20 tournament.

Smith, who faced concussion fears coming into the IPL, put on a key 121-run second-wicket partnership with Sanju Samson, who smashed 74, to guide Royals to 216 for seven and a 16-run win over Chennai Super Kings in Sharjah.

South African veteran Faf du Plessis made a valiant 72 off 37 balls with seven sixes but Chennai, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, ended on 200 for six in 20 overs.

Chennai were involved in another six-hitting fest against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2018 edition that also saw 33 sixes.

Australian Smith opened the innings for Royals, inaugural IPL winners in 2008, and after the loss of the first wicket it was raining sixes with Samson hitting nine of them in his 32-ball blitz.

"Absolute pleasure to bat with him. He is the world's best batsman," said Samson, who brought up his 50 in just 19 balls and hit nine sixes in his knock.

"And when he goes out and bats 20 overs, it becomes easy for the others coming in."

Smith got four hits over the fence and Jofra Archer smacked four in the final over to help Royals get 30 runs off South African quick Lungi Ngidi.

"They batted really well. Steve and Sanju. You have to give credit to their bowlers too," Dhoni, who remained unbeaten on 29, said after the loss.

Smith passed a concussion test in the United Arab Emirates when he joined his IPL team after missing three one-day matches in England following a hit on the helmet during practice.

The much-delayed IPL, which was originally scheduled to start in March, moved out of India due to the coronavirus pandemic and is being played behind closed doors.

But Jay Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said the popular league had the highest ever opening day viewership for any sporting league across the globe when 200 million people tuned to watch Chennai beat Mumbai Indians on September 19.