The match was a test of character of two different kinds. Rajasthan Royals had the challenge of putting behind them the cloud of the spot-fixing controversy, while Sunrisers Hyderabad, coming in on the back of a deflating seven-wicket loss to Mumbai Indians, needed a win to keep their hopes of a playoff berth in the Indian Premier League 2013 alive.
At the end, Hyderabad, who won by 23 runs to register their ninth win in the competition, not only met their objective but also ensured Rajasthan don't finish as one of the top-two on the points table and are forced to chart their course in the playoffs, starting with the eliminator between the third and fourth placed teams in New Delhi on May 22.
Rajasthan, who ended on 113 for 9, chasing 137, looked spirited on the field, but weren't quite able to cash in despite reducing Hyderabad to 5 for 3 in 2.4 overs. That it was a sluggish pitch wasn't hard to fathom when a couple of deliveries very early on went on the second bounce to the wicketkeeper. But Hyderabad made life more difficult for themselves by losing a cluster of wickets early on, forcing the batsmen who followed to get into a damage control mode.
That role was played to perfection by Biplab Samantray, the Odisha batsman, who rode on luck early on to register his maiden IPL fifty. A beneficiary of some generosity from Rajasthan, who didn't appeal after effecting a run-out when he was on 8, Samantray cashed in to play a responsible knock under pressure to lift his team to a position from where they could accelerate. Hanuma Vihari (19) lent valuable support, but it was Darren Sammy (23 off 19 balls) and Thisara Perera (17 not out) who came up with the finishing touches as Hyderabad amassed 88 off the last 10 overs.
In reply, Rahul Dravid (25) and Ajinkya Rahane (12) put on 39 runs to lay the foundation for the middle order. But they were consumed by the pressure of the ever-rising asking rate on a pitch that didn't exactly suit stroke making as Shane Watson was to soon find out. Watson could only score 11 off 20 deliveries, while none of the other batsmen who followed managed to get their eye in and launch an onslaught.
Thisara Perera, who conceded 55 off his 4 overs in the previous game against Mumbai, roared back in fine fashion, picking up two crucial wickets of Watson and Stuart Binny to virtually kill the game.
Amit Mishra was stifling, returning excellent figures of 2 wickets off 4 overs giving away just 8 runs.
The loss meant James Faulkner's second five-wicket haul of the season went in vain. En route a magical spell of accurate bowling, mixed with the slower variation on a pitch that suited his style, Faulkner ended with figures of 5 for 16, going on to become the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 26 scalps. But that wasn't enough to ensure Rajasthan, who have been in the news for all the wrong reason recently, to secure a win.
The Hyderabad victory means Royal Challengers Bangalore must win their game against Chennai Super Kings on Saturday (May 18). It has also knocked Kings XI Punjab out of the race for the playoffs.