Report: Match 4 - SRH v RR

Royals trump Sunrisers in low-scoring thriller

By Harsh Kalan
Mumbai 18 April 2014
The Rajasthan Royals embarked on their Pepsi IPL 2014 campaign on a winning note. They beat the Sunrisers Hyderabad by a four-wicket margin while chasing a 134-run target. After Rajat Bhatia, Dhawal Kulkarni and Kane Richardson starred with the ball, Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny’s contributions with the bat proved valuable in what turned out to be a last-over finish.

Earlier, Shane Watson asked SRH to bat first on a track where, in the previous match, KXIP had successfully chased down CSK’s 205-run total.

However, much to the chagrin of the SRH batters, runs did not come by as freely as they did in the early evening game. On what turned out to be a bowler-friendly alter ego of the previous track, Aaron Finch (2) got out in the very first over of the match. After that, Shikhar Dhawan (38) and David Warner (32) looked to stabilise the innings. They compiled a 75-run second-wicket stand, before Rajat Bhatia got rid of both batsmen within a space of two overs. At that point, SRH had posted 82 for three in 13.2 overs.

And with their tails up, the Royals bowlers kept the Sunrisers on a tight leash for the rest of the innings. They ensured the opposition did not build any substantial partnerships after the Dhawan-Warner liaison. Dhawal Kulkarni, on his Royals debut, ended up picking two wickets, including Finch and Lokesh Rahul (20). Even the big-hitting Darren Sammy (6) was gagged by some tight bowling by RR. Karn Sharma (4), who is known to be a handy batsman in the lower-middle order, also failed to accelerate the run-rate. Thanks to a combined effort from their bowling unit, the Royals restricted the Sunrisers to 133 for six in their allotted 20 overs.

While Bhatia (4-0-22-2) and Kulkarni (4-0-23-2) clocked nearly identical bowling figures, even Kane Richardson ended up taking two wickets at an economy rate of little over six. Pravin Tambe was yet another Royals bowler who was stingy throughout his spell; the 42-year-old conceded only 23 runs during his four-over spell.

RR’s response also started on a shaky note as Dale Steyn trapped Abhishek Nayar (4) leg-before in the first over of the run-chase. Sanju Samson then came out to the middle to pair up with Ajinkya Rahane. But the going did not get any easier for the Royals as Samson (3) had to return when his testing nine-ball stay at the crease came to an end, courtesy Bhuvneshwar Kumar. At 15 for two, RR’s chase was in all sorts of trouble and they needed a big partnership to get back on track in a game where preserving wickets was clearly more important than scoring at a brisk pace.

However, the Royals’ worries deepened when after Steyn and Kumar, the third SRH pacer, Ishant Sharma, struck with a seemingly unplayable delivery. The wiry quick forced an outside edge off Watson’s (3) bat that was safely pouched by the ‘keeper. When the Royals skipper got out, his team was struggling on 31 for three in 6.2 overs. Rahane and Stuart Binny then took charge of the innings. They stuck it out for nearly 10 overs and added 77 runs for the fourth wicket, until Amit Mishra got rid of Rahane (59) after a well-crafted half-century. Mishra even dismissed the experienced Brad Hodge (1) soon after, adding another twist to the tale. And then, just when his team needed him, the ever-reliable Steyn bagged the wicket of Rajat Bhatia (4).

The game came down to the final over with RR’s hopes resting on Binny (48*) and James Faulkner (8*). The duo ensured their team got over the line with four wickets in hand and three balls to spare.

For SRH, Steyn and Mishra took two wickets apiece, while Kumar and Sharma accounted for a scalp each.

Man of the Match:
Ajinkya Rahane for his match-winning knock (59) in a high-pressure chase
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