Hyderabad: All season long, Rahul Dravid's Rajasthan Royals have punched above their weight. It was, therefore, little short of ironic that they were put out of IPL V by a team that has, from the very start, merely propped up the table.
Having already played themselves out of contention with one defeat after another, Deccan Chargers played party-poopers at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, pulling off an unexpected five-wicket win to end the Royals' interest in the competition.
Perhaps the pressure of being in a must-win situation got to the Royals, because they turned in one of their more forgettable batting displays, struggling to find any momentum after being put in. With Kumar Sangakkara opting to drop himself again, Cameron White led the side astutely, ensuring that team morale did not flag despite three catches being spilled in the first five overs.
The Royals didn't make capital of any of those drops, undone by a combination of a sticky surface on which the ball gripped, and an improved bowling performance from the Chargers. Ajinkya Rahane, dropped off the second ball of the evening by Parthiv Patel off Jean-Paul Duminy, was cleaned up in the next over by the fiery Dale Steyn, but it was Amit Mishra who put a skid on the scoring, accounting for Shane Watson and Stuart Binny in successive overs.
Mishra got rid of Watson with his first delivery, a ripping leg-break that drifted in and spun away sharply to pluck out off stump, then befuddled Binny with a googly. Dravid, waging a solitary battle, fell in an effort to up the rate of scoring and the Royals limped to 126 for eight, by no means a competitive total.
Akshath Reddy, opening for the first time, and Shikhar Dhawan got the Chargers off to an excellent start, embracing an aggressive approach from the off and reaping rich rewards. Dhawan played second fiddle as Akshath took to Watson first and then Johan Botha. The first-wicket stand of 63 set the Chargers on their way.
They had won just one of their previous 16 IPL games at this venue, and looked on course to self-destruct as they were strangled in the middle overs. A few wickets were lost to contrived pressure, but Duminy's enterprise and late fireworks from Parthiv Patel and Ashish Reddy took them home with eight deliveries to spare. The wild celebrations in the camp were well justified, given that it was only the Chargers' third win in 15 attempts this season.