Over the past week, what had promised to be a dream Pepsi Indian Premier League season for Rajasthan Royals had been transformed into a nightmare. When they lost four wickets for seven runs two-thirds of the way through a game they had controlled, it seemed as though fate had a cruel ending in store for their season. But in Brad Hodge, a man who has scored more Twenty20 runs than any other, they found an experienced hand who had just enough nous and skill to take them over the line.
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Hyderabad, despite a stellar all-round show from Darren Sammy, were left to reflect on another mediocre batting effort, and a target (133) too small for even their balanced attack to defend. Sammy smashed a 21-ball 29 and took 2 for 27, but it was Hodge, with 54 from 29, who would have the last word. (Also read: Match stats)
Rajasthan's chase had started well, with Rahul Dravid pulling and flicking Dale Steyn for fours in the opening over. He clipped Ishant Sharma off the pads as well, but when he tried to repeat the stroke, a hint of away movement saw the ball take the edge to point. Shane Watson targetted Ishant though, taking two fours in successive overs, a sequence interrupted by a magnificent straight six from Ajinkya Rahane.
Then Karan Sharma came on and Watson pulled with withering power for four. The next ball appeared to be clearing the rope, only for Sammy to pop up like a Jack-in-the-box and snaffle the catch with nonchalant ease.
After that, he starred with the ball, clean bowling both Dishant Yagnik and Stuart Binny with deliveries that had just a hint of seam movement. Rahane had also gone by then, chipping a return catch to Amit Mishra as 50 for 1 became 57 for 5. Two sixes and a four from Hodge in a Karan over that went for 18 put Rajasthan back in the ascendancy, and though Steyn returned to trap Sanju Samson in front, Hodge and James Faulkner took them over the line. With ten needed off the last over, Hodge smoked Sammy for two sixes to spark off frenzied celebrations in the embattled camp.
Hyderabad have been poor starters with the bat and things were no different on Wednesday (May 22) night. Few expected Dravid to throw the ball to Vikramjeet Malik, a stalwart of the domestic scene for a decade. Having struggled with injury in recent times, Malik took just six balls to make an impact as Parthiv Patel skied one off the leading edge to cover.
With the slow-paced pitch working in his favour, Malik struck in his next over as well, as Hanuma Vihari ballooned a pull to mid-on. It took 23 balls for Shikhar Dhawan to strike the first four of the innings, and things appeared to be looking up as both he and Cameron White took fours off Malik's next over.
In the contest within a contest, White cut and hooked Watson, his fellow Australian, for fours as the 50 partnership with Dhawan came at a run a ball.
It was another seasoned domestic campaigner, Siddharth Trivedi, that turned the game back in Rajasthan's favour. White slogged him once for four, but the encore was horribly miscued and ended up at extra cover. White departed after making 31 off 28 balls.
Trivedi finished an outstanding spell with 1 for 18, conceding just one four, and it wasn't till the first ball off the 15th over that Sammy hit the first six of the innings off Watson. He added 28 with Dhawan, whose 39-ball 33 was a largely subdued affair that ended when an attempt to reprise a deft scoop landed up in short fine leg's hands.
Sammy and Thisara Perera also added 28, with both slamming sixes off Kevon Cooper, and Sammy then swung Watson for another as Hyderabad eyed a strong finish. But a brilliant flat throw from Rahul Shukla, the substitute fielder in the deep, caught him short of his ground, and Perera followed in the same over, edging behind. The last five overs produced 55, but 132 wasn't nearly enough.