After a powerful show with the bat, Rajasthan Royals put in a splendid display of death bowling to beat Delhi Daredevils by five runs to start their Indian Premier League 2013 campaign with a win at Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday (April 6).
After opting to bat, Rajasthan Royals, led from the front by Rahul Dravid, set up a target of 166 - a fairly threatening one for Delhi, especially in light of their batting troubles in the previous match against Kolkata Knight Riders. And so it proved. David Warner scored a powerful 77 but lack of support for him meant a second consecutive loss.
In their chase, Delhi were helped by a quick start provided by Unmukt Chand and Warner. The two put up 39 for the opening wicket, thanks mainly to Chand, who took his chances against the new ball. Chand first swung S Sreesanth through midwicket before slog-sweeping Samuel Badree for six. Badree then came in for a hammering in his next over at the hands of Warner, but the breakthrough came soon enough. Sreesanth, bowling to Chand (23), went through the gate to uproot the stumps.
Mahela Jayawardene walked out but failed to make a lasting impression. He scored a steady 19, allowing Warner to assume control of the partnership. The two put up 43 runs for the second wicket, but the stand ended when Jayawardene fell to a splendid catch by Ajinkya Rahane at point off Rahul Shukla.
However, with Warner continuing his assault, the price on his wicket kept rising. He was dropped twice, first by Dravid, when on four, and then when he was on 57 by Ankeet Chavan, and the runs started coming easier for Delhi as they closed in on the target. Then, with 29 needed off 20, Warner swept Siddharth Trivedi over the ropes to ease the pressure further.
However, the tide turned with two quick wickets. Manprit Juneja had done well to support Warner, but fell to Kevon Cooper with 17 needed. Warner was sent back, having made 77 off 56, to a run out effected by Brad Hodge.
With nine needed off six balls, Cooper bowled a brilliant over, which yielded two wickets, that of Johan Botha and Andre Russell, and cost just three runs. It gave Rajasthan a five-run win, and a great start to their campaign.
It was also the perfect comeback for Dravid after ten months out of the game. Despite the break, Dravid was effective as Rajasthan put up 165 for 7 in their innings. It was a knock that started slowly, but increased in pace as it went on. He scored 65 from 51 balls, with six boundaries and two sixes, and was dismissed only in the hurry to score runs at the death.
He came out fairly early in the innings, when Kusal Perera (14) departed after providing an explosive start, the scoreboard reading 22. Dravid had Rahane for company, and the two set about building the innings.
The two took Rajasthan past the 50-run mark, and though the boundaries dried up for a while, the two kept the scoreboard ticking over with quick singles. Misfields didn't help Delhi either, Ashish Nehra even giving a boundary to Dravid after letting one slip at the deep. It didn't take long for more to come though. There was a classy drive straight off Irfan Pathan before he pulled one through midwicket.
The partnership was threatening to take it away from Delhi when Shahbaz Nadeem had Rahane (28) driving one straight back at him. It was a difficult catch, but Nadeem held on and the association, which had yielded 65 runs, was broken.
Dravid was then dropped twice in quick succession. By Russell when on 38 and then by Warner, the second fumble resulting in the first six of the innings.
When Jayawardene finally brought Botha into the attack, it worked perfectly for Stuart Binny. There was a wild swing, which caught the edge and raced to the boundary, before two consecutive sixes, the first a slog-sweep and the next lifted over deep midwicket. At the other end, Dravid brought up his half-century with a single, as he let Binny take over the attack.
Binny was outstanding on the day. He made a quick 40 off just 20, and though his knock was short-lived, as Umesh Yadav soon broke through with a quick delivery, it provided Rajasthan with the possibility and belief that they could go on to post a big total.
But they didn't. Dravid rallied with a couple of boundaries, including a six off Pathan, but didn't last long, holing out to Yadav as Rajasthan lost four wickets in the space of three runs, settling for 165 in the end.
For a while there, it looked as though those quick wickets in the end would prove costly, but a spirited team performance and that Cooper over ensured that didn't happen.