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Nearly 400 runs were scored in a last over thriller as the winners of the first two editions of the Indian Premier League collided in Jaipur in the early kick-off on Tuesday with Rahul Dravid's Rajasthan Royals sneaking past Kumar Sangakkara's Deccan Chargers by 5 wickets with 2 balls to spare. Batting first, the Deccan Chargers posted a massive 196/2 on the back of an excellent opening partnership worth 94 between Sangakkara (44) and Shikhar Dhawan (52), before a late burst from South Africa's JP Duminy, 58 from 26 balls, took the visitors on the verge of 200. However, that total proved to be insufficient against the might of the local Royals as some breahtaking innings from the holy trinity of Rahul Dravid (42), Ajinkya Rahane (44) and Brad Hodge (48*) saw Rajasthan pick up an incredible win that sees them return to the top of the table. Deccan meanwhile are still to get off the mark this season, albeit having played three games less than the Royals.
2012 promises to be an exceptional year for the Indian Premier League with results like these clearly showing that there is almost nothing to separate the sides, and that any team could quite easily defeat the other on any given day.
The day started on an auspicious note for Kumar Sangakkara, as he won the toss and opted to make first use of the brilliant batting conditions on offer. JP Duminy finally got a game at the expense of former Australian T20 skipper Cameron White while wicketkeeper batsman Parthiv Patel was the other big absentee from the Chargers' line-up. The Royals were forced into a late change with Shreevats Goswami picking up an injury during the warm-up and local keeper Dishant Yagnik replacing him.
Sangakkara and Dhawan made an electric start to the game scoring 57 runs in the powerplay without taking too many risks. Some excellent cricket shots and useful running between the wickets from the two left-handers saw the blow hot - blow cold Rajasthan bowling unit put to the sword. The runs continued to flow after the powerplay too as the duo reached the midway stage of the innings with 83 runs to their credit.
With no wickets yet to show for their afternoon in the field, Dravid tossed the ball to Brad Hodge, who was instantly smacked for a 4 and a 6 on consecutive deliveries by Sangakkara, but the former Lankan skipper's decision to stop using his feet to the part-time spinner and bring out a cross-batted slog brought about his downfall on the very next delivery for 44. Shikhar Dhawan followed his skipper back to the pavilion shortly after for 52 caught in the deep by Hodge off Siddharth Trivedi.
At 110/2 from 14 overs, the Rajasthan Royals had pulled the scoring rate back just a bit and looked on course for keeping their visitors down to a score between 170 and 180. However, what followed over the next half-an-hour was pure carnage as JP Duminy in the company of Dan Christian completely ripped apart the Royals' bowling attack.
The duo smashed 86 runs from the final 6 overs with Duming getting the bulk of those. The Proteas left-hander had 8 runs from the first 9 balls he faced before adding another 50 from the next 17 deliveries bowled to him. That onslaught included 5 sixes and 3 boundaries and involved taking 53 runs from the last 3 overs with poor Amit Singh bearing the brunt of that assault. Christian was happy to watch the carnage from the other end and finished with an unbeaten 29 from 19 balls.
Chasing 196 was always going to be quite a challenge, but Rahul Dravid led the way for his side with 3 boundaries in Dale Steyn's opening over. Dan Christian's first over met with a similar welcome as Dravid and orange cap holder Ajinkya Rahane helped themselves to another 14. Dravid looked in exceptional touch and beautifully timed a wide delivery from Christian over extra cover for 6, ala Tendulkar's shot off Albie Morkel in the opening game of the tournament. However, the veteran Indian legend perished in the same over, bowled by Christian for an exceptional 24-ball 42. At the end of the powerplay, Rajasthan had done better than Deccan at the same stage, and were a solid 62/1.
Ashok Menaria joined Rahane out in the middle and duo added another 48 runs for the second wicket before the former became the first of Amit Mishra's three victims in the middle overs. Menaria (22), Rahane (44) and Owais Shah (12) fell in quick succession to leave Rajasthan in a spot of bother at 135/4 in the middle of the 16th over. With 62 still needed from 28 balls, a match-winning innings was desperately needed, and Aussie Brad Hodge came to the party with some exceptional strokeplay of his own.
Six boundaries and 2 sixes from Hodge brought the asking rate down to 11 from the final over as Dale Steyn charged in to the Aussie veteran. At the other end was Dishant Yagnik, having come in and scored 1 in the previous over after Johan Botha was dismissed for 14 (9b). Steyn managed to get Hodge off strike having conceded 3 from the first 2 balls of the over, leaving Rajasthan needing 8 from 4 balls. Rajasthan though found a new hero in Yagnik, a product of the now defunct rebel ICL, with the 28-year old left-hander spanking consecutive boundaries (the second via a misfield) to steal victory for the Royals with 2 balls to spare.
It was a very disappointing outcome for Deccan, who have no time to wallow in self-pity as they take on another form side in the Delhi Daredevils on Thursday afternoon. The Royals meanwhile have a few days of rest ahead of them before they are on the road again, this time heading to Chennai to take on the reigning champions in once again the 4pm kick-off on Saturday.
RR: R Dravid(c), A Rahane, A Menaria, O Shah, B Hodge, D Yagnik(wk), J Botha, B Hogg, A Singh, S Trivedi, P Singh.
DC: S Dhawan, K Sangakkara (wk), JP Duminy, B Chipli, D Christian, T Mishra, A Sharma, A Rajan, D Steyn, A Mishra
Deccan Chargers 196/2 (20 overs, 9.80 rpo)
S Dhawan 52 (43) B Hodge 1-13
JP Duminy 58* (26) S Trivedi 1-27
Rajasthan Royals 197/5 (19.4 overs, 10.01 rpo)
A Rahane 44 (31) A Mishra 3-32
B Hodge 48* (21) D Christian 1-43
Royals win by 5 wickets with 2 balls to spare
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