PUNE April 12: Twenty-two year-old Sanju Samson (102 off 63) put his woeful domestic season behind him in some style, smashing the first century of IPL 2017 to lay down a strong foundation for Delhi Daredevils' resounding victory over Rising Pune Supergiant, Cricbuzz reported.
Rishabh Pant (31 off 22) too chipped in with a vital cameo, while Chris Morris's carnage (38 off 9) truly put daylight between the sides competing for two crucial points.
With Steve Smith absent due to illness, RPS were behind the eight-ball from the very start in a daunting chase of 206 and couldn't quite bridge the gap by the end. The result was a humbling 97-run defeat.
Samson's incredible knock was played out in three key phases and was truly the difference between the two sides. On a fantastic batting wicket in Pune, he walked out early at the fall of Aditya Tare's dismissal and played some fabulous cricketing shots through the off-side.
There were finely-timed drives in front of point, and perfectly leaned-in drives through covers as he raced away to 31 off just 14 balls, all without taking an iota of risk.
He added a superb 69-run stand for the second wicket, but once the field restrictions relaxed, Samson's scoring rate dipped. That downward slide coincided with the arrival of Rishabh Pant, whose cameo ensured the Daredevils didn't lose steam.
When a direct hit from Mayank Agarwal ended Rishabh's stay, in the 16th over, Daredevils had 124 on the board. Almost as if on cue, Samson turned to his adventurous self again.
He hit Imran Tahir for a six and then tormented Ashok Dinda with two glorious hits for sixes and a four to move into the 90s in the 18th.
Adam Zampa wasn't spared either, as a straight six off his first ball in the following over made Samson the first centurion of the season.
Samson's fine essay tipped the scales in Delhi's favour, but the nature of track still called for something more for them to go into the break with their noses well in front.
Chris Morris's (38 not out) mind-numbing flourish did an absolute fine job of the requirement. His nine-ball madness included four fours and three sixes as 64 runs were scored off the final three overs bowled by Dinda (22 runs), Adam Zampa (19 runs) and Ben Stokes (23 runs)
With the ball coming on very nicely onto the bat, there was a lack of variation from the bowlers first up. Deepak Chahar got the first wicket, but the urge to bowl quick played into RPS's hands as they collected 35 off his 3 overs.
Dinda's awry lengths too showed that he'd hardly learnt a lesson from the drubbing against KKR and went for 36 in his 4 overs.
At the other end of the spectrum, Zaheer Khan put his experience on display by taking the pace off the ball at every opportunity and crippling RPS's chase with early wickets of both openers. He finished with figures of 3 for 20 in 3 overs.
The absence of Smith cut RPS's wound deeper as Faf du Plessis couldn't quite make instant impact on return, a la his South African compatriot AB de Villiers.
Rahane's side was also undone by the ineffectiveness of Zampa, who sometimes bowled too full and allowed the set batsmen to clear the ground. Contrastingly, Delhi's Amit Mishra earned figures of 3 for 11 in 3 overs.
As Dhoni's lacklustre start to IPL 2017 continued, DD enjoyed a perfect win, while RPS finished a distant second.
The turnaround time for a beleaguered Rising Pune Supergiant is just three days, during which they travel from Pune to Rajkot to face Gujarat Lions, another side short on confidence (and favourable results) at the moment. Might just be what they need.
Delhi, meanwhile, will head back home where go up against one of the two teams of IPL that are unbeaten still - Kings XI Punjab - on April 15.