“Sanju Samson, do not throw it away, do not throw it away,” legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar gave the Indian power-hitter a pleading reaction on-air when he mistimed his shot in the lead-up to his career-best knock in One Day International (ODI) cricket on Thursday. After a series of mediocre knocks in international cricket, Samson finally put a price on his wicket in the ODI series decider between KL Rahul’s Team India and hosts South Africa at Boland Park in Paarl.

India’s Sanju Samson celebrates his century (REUTERS)

Batting first in the 3rd ODI against the Proteas, India handed out a debut cap to Rajat Patidar, who opened the innings with youngster Sai Sudharsan at Paarl. While Patidar scored 22 on debut, in-form opener Sudharsan had a forgetful day as the Gujarat Titans (GT) batter managed to score 10 off 16 balls. Receiving a promotion to bat at the No.3 position, wicketkeeper-batter Samson lived up to expectations in a match where skipper Rahul perished for 21 off 35 balls.

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Samson flexes muscles on Proteas bowlers

India were reduced to 49/2 when Samson arrived at the crease. With the spotlight on Sanju, the Rajasthan Royals (RR) skipper compiled his first half-century of the ODI series against the Proteas in the decider. Samson was on his way to his fourth ODI half-century in 66 balls. Can he convert? It was a question on everyone’s mind as Samson has struggled big time to raise his stocks in international cricket over the years.

Samson slams maiden international ton

A fifty-up Samson scored the next 50 runs of his innings in 44 balls to end his long-standing drought of an international hundred. The Kerala batter completed his century in 110 balls to help India reach 235-4 in 44 overs. Facing spinner Keshav Maharaj, Indian superstar Samson picked up a comfortable single by stroking the ball to long-off to reach the magical figure. Samson was seen flexing muscles as the wicketkeeper-batter gestured towards the Indian dugout following the completion of a memorable ton in Paarl.

‘Samson rises to the challenge’

Samson smashed 108 off 114 balls to earn plaudits from the cricket fraternity. “Promoted to no.3 in the series decider and he rises to the challenge with a century! Well played @IamSanjuSamson #SAvIND,” former India opener Wasim Jaffer said. Samson made his international debut against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club in 2015.

‘Maharaj bowled really well’

Since his international debut for India, Samson has played only 16 ODIs and 24 T20Is. “Feels an emotional one. There’s been a lot of work I’ve been putting in physically and mentally over the past year. They bowled well with the new ball, as the ball got older it was getting difficult to bat. But we got momentum through my partnership with Tilak. Maharaj bowled really well,” Samson said during the innings break. Samson fired three sixes and struck six fours in his brilliant knock against South Africa.