Jaipur: T20 specialist Brad Hodge played an excellent cameo to guide Rajasthan Royals to their fourth victory in the Indian Premier League, pipping Deccan Chargers by five wickets in a thrilling finish on Tuesday.
Hodge smashed an unbeaten 48 off 21 deliveries as the home team successfully chased down a daunting target of 197 with two balls to spare.
It was glovesman Dishant Yagnik, playing his first match of the tournament, who hit successive boundaries off Dale Steyn to clinch the issue on a belter of a track at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Royals required 25 runs in the last two overs and it became all the more difficult after Johan Botha was caught in the deep off Anand Rajan's first delivery of the penultimate over.
However, Hodge - who is the highest run-getter in the history of T20 cricket - had other ideas.
First, Hodge (6x4 2x6) smashed Anand Rajan to long-on for a boundary and then hit a magnificent six over wide long-off to bring down the equation to 11 in the last over.
First ball by Steyn was hit for two runs by Hodge before he gave the strike to Yagnik with a quick single.
Yagnik smacked the third ball past the off-side field and down to deep cover and then smashed the next delivery past the diving cover fielder to set off wild celebrations in the Rajasthan camp.
Earlier, Jean-Paul Duminy provided the late onslaught with an unbeaten 26-ball 58 after a solid opening stand as Chargers posted an imposing total.
After skipper Kumar Sangakkara (44) and Shikhar Dhawan (52) laid the platform with a 94-run opening stand, Duminy took the opposition bowlers to the cleaners, piling up 53 runs in the last three overs.
Duminy, playing his first match in IPL 5, struck five sixes, which included two off Pankaj Singh's penultimate over, and as many off Amit Singh's last over.
Duminy found an able ally in Australian Daniel Christian, who hit a 19-ball 29, laced with two fours and a six, to propel the visitors to a competitive total.
Chasing a stiff target, Rajasthan started on an attacking note with skipper Rahul Dravid (42) hitting Steyn for three fours in his first over.
Dravid shed his usual calm self image this time where he himself plays steadily and provides his partner Ajinkya Rahane with a good platform.
The just-retired veteran of 164 Tests and 344 ODIs took the attack to the opposition as he hit right-arm medium Rajan for two consecutive fours in the fifth over and then dispatched Christian for a six and a four.
However, his batting exploits came to an end when he was cleaned up by Christian while trying to work the ball away to the on side but it deflected off his pads and pegged back the leg stump.
Dravid's 24-ball innings was laced with seven fours and a six. Dravid and Rahane added 62 runs for the opening wicket in just 5.5 overs.
The departure of Dravid somewhat put brakes on the scoring of Rajasthan as the overs between 7 and 9 yielded just 16 runs with Steyn and Christian maintaining a disciplined line.
Orange cap holder Rahane (44) then broke the shackles when he took a few paces down the track and whacked a loose delivery from spinner Amit Mishra for a maximum over wide long-off's reach.
Rahane completed his 300 runs in this IPL season when he clips Rajan down to long-on.
The Mumbai batsman, in the company of local boy Ashok Menaria (22), kept the scoreboard ticking with occasional boundaries as both took the Rajasthan past 100-run mark in the 11th over.
Both forged a 48-run stand for the second wicket before Menaria departed caught by Duminy off Amit Mishra at short midwicket.
Rajasthan suffered a twin blow when Rahane and English batsman Owais Shah (12) departed in quick succession.
With 54 runs needed of last four overs, in came the Hodge and straightaway dispatched Steyn for four consecutive fours to accumulate 17 runs off the over.
Botha (14) was dropped by Bharat Chipli at point at a time when the teams battle against fluctuating fortunes.
Botha made up for the lost chance as he hit Christian for a huge six over deep midwicket. He was caught by Tanmay Mishra off Rajan at midwicket.
Hodge and Yagnik then took the team past DC's total with some clean hitting.
Electing to bat after winning the toss, Chargers got off to a flying start with Sangakkara hitting five fours, while Dhawan took 43 balls for his fluent half-century, which had eight fours. The mandatory powerplay yielded 57 runs.
It looked like the week's break from their last game against Chennai Super Kings did wonders for the visitors as the openers batted with purpose to come up with DC's highest opening stand against RR in any of the IPL seasons so far.
Sangakkara was looking in ominous form as he resorted to playing his trademark cuts and pulls to keep the run-rate over 8 an over.
Hodge brought the smiles back on gloomy faces of Rajasthan players after the Sri Lankan was caught by Yagnik.
Dhawan completed his fifty in the next over with a glance towards fine-leg. However, the Delhi batsman soon departed after being caught by Hodge at deep square leg off Trivedi.
The loss of two wickets did not put the brakes on Chargers' scoring rate as Duminy dispatched a fuller-length delivery from Trivedi for maximum over deep midwicket, Christian made his presence felt with an effortless flat-batted six off Hogg.
It seemed like Duminy had saved the best for the last as he dispatched Pankaj for two sixes and a four to accumulate 18 runs off the 19th over and then treated Amit Singh with equal disdain, hitting him for two sixes.
Story first published on: Tuesday, 17 April 2012 15:49 IST