By Siddarth Ravindran (ESPN cricinfo)
Hyderabad will be sick of the sight of Australia allrounder James Faulkner. Last year, he took five-wickets hauls in two encounters against Hyderabad, and though this time he didn’t make an impact with the ball, he secured a final-over victory by coolly cracking his first two balls for boundaries. It completed a day where 205 was easily hunted down in the afternoon by Punjab, but Rajasthan huffed and puffed to overhaul 133.
After Glenn Maxwell and Co. had cruised past Chennai’s huge score in the first game of the day, Rajasthan captain Shane Watson had, half-jokingly, said at the toss that he would be happy to chase anything below 200. His team was given a score substantially below 200, but the pursuit was anything but smooth as Hyderabad lived up to their reputation of being tenacious defenders.
Rajasthan sprung a surprise by sending Abhishek Nayar opening, and he began by coaxing the first ball from Dale Steyn through cover for four. That was among the few controlled shots from Rajasthan in the Powerplay as Steyn, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma had the ball swerving around under lights. Nayar was dismissed third ball while Sanju Samson barely middled a ball in his troubled stay before chipping a catch to mid-off in the fourth over.
That brought together the key pair of Watson and Ajinkya Rahane. Bhuvneshwar bowled an outstanding sixth over, beating the bat three times, twice with the ball leaving the batsman and once cutting in. Perhaps it was that pressure that helped Ishant dismiss Watson – who had a strike-rate of 227.77 against him – for the first time in the IPL, leaving Rajasthan at 31 for 3.
Rahane played and missed, had plenty of inside edges and outside edges, was dropped early at first slip, was struck on the helmet by Ishant, but he stuck it out through the difficult phase and kept Rajasthan in the game with a half-century. Even that landmark came through an outside edge to the third-man boundary.
Stuart Binny, the only other Rajasthan batsman to reach double figures, took on the weak link, Darren Sammy, early on but with the asking-rate never too high, he made sure he tucked the ball around to keep the score moving – he had only one dot ball in the final 14 he faced. He found the googlies from the legspinners, Amit Mishra and Karn Sharma, hard to read but his combative 77-run stand with Rahane kept the game tight.
Rahane finally fell in the 16th over, and Rajasthan’s finisher Brad Hodge flailed against spin before perishing for an eight-ball 1. Mishra got both those big scalps, and Hyderabad were sensing a win. Steyn removed Rajat Bhatia, but with eight needed in the final over, Faulkner finished off the game with three deliveries to spare.
Hyderabad’s fancied batting, with a top three reading Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner, also had a tough time of it. Though Dhawan and Warner hit 30s, neither could really get going, scoring only at around a run-a-ball. Cameos from KL Rahul and Venugopal Rao took them to 133, though the line-up filled with big-hitters managed only two sixes all innings. Their team mentor, VVS Laxman, felt the total was 20-25 short, but the bowlers made Rajasthan scrap for the win.