Rajasthan Royals continued their supremacy at home, fighting off the Highveld Lions' challenge at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur in the second match on Wednesday (September 25). Like in most of Rajasthan's wins, it seemed a team effort would get them through, until the unheralded Pravin Tambe stepped up in just his fourth match for the franchise, and bowled three overs of match-turning leg-spin to deliver a 30-run win with a spell of 3-0-15-4.
Rajasthan had piled up a good total of 183 for 5 after being put in to bat, and Tambe was given the ball only in the 12th over, with the Lions' 88 for 3. From there, he winkled out four wickets to cripple a chase that was looking like it had got back on its feet after a stumbling start. Tambe first bowled Hardus Viljoen to end a 53-run stand with Alviro Petersen, the Lions captain. He then had Jean Symes caught at short cover and Sohail Tanvir trapped in front. The key strike was made in his third over, with Petersen cleaned up for a 28-ball 40 as Lions slid to 120 for 7 in the 16th over, with the chase all but out of reach. The Lions eventually ended on 153 for 9. (Read: Highlights)
The Lions' chase had Quinton de Kock going early, and Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma following quickly. At 36 for 3 in five overs, Rajasthan were in control. Petersen, batting at No. 5, and Viljoen led the recovery. Viljoen struck some muscular blows, and the duo's stand had started assuming dangerous proportions before Tambe weaved his magic. (Pics)
Rajasthan's total was built on a successful latter-half charge led by Brad Hodge's unbeaten 46 off 23 balls, with Shane Watson and Stuart Binny lending admirable support.
The pitch was much more batting friendly than the one on which Rajasthan chased down Mumbai Indians' 142 for 7 in the final over on Saturday, but Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane were tied down in the early overs by Tanvir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Tanvir was particularly impressive against his one-time franchise, mixing up the pace and denying room while angling it across the right-hand batsmen from around the stumps. Rahane, Sanju Samson and Dravid fell in that order, leaving Rajasthan 67 for 3 in the tenth over.
After that, Watson, Binny and Hodge each grabbed the innings by the scruff of its neck in successive stages, with Hodge doing the most damage at a key moment, delivering the knockout punch.
Watson began by targeting Aaron Phangiso in the 13th over, which went for 22 runs. Alviro Petersen gambled by bringing back Tsotsobe for his final over. The move worked, with Tsotsobe getting the key wicket of Watson, caught inside the long-on boundary for 33 off 24. (Dravid praises Tambe)
Binny took over from there, and continued to attack Phangiso, who was brought back with Watson gone. A couple of Binny's inside-out cover drives were as attractive as Watson's earlier straight hits, and Phangiso ended with unflattering figures of 4-0-52-0.
Binny fell for a 20-ball 38, deceived by a slower yorker from Dwaine Pretorius. At that point, Rajasthan were 145 for 5, with exactly three overs left. The match was in the balance, since Tanvir would bowl two of the three overs, and Rajasthan needed a strong finish to make a competitive score a formidable one, and Hodge stepped up magnificently. He had flicked and pulled with élan in his brief stay at the crease, but reserved his best for the last, taking Tanvir for 21 runs in the last over a brace of fours and sixes to lift Rajasthan beyond the 180-run mark.
They psychological pressure of the big chase played its part, and allowed Tambe to step in at the strategic moment as Rajasthan took one more step towards a semifinal spot, moving to the top of Group A with eight points.