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Royals retain home advantage thanks to Hodge heroics

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Two contrasting half-centuries from Brad Hodge and Ajinkya Rahane at opposite ends of their innings, helped the Rajasthan Royals chase down a target of 140 to hand the Otago Volts their first defeat in 16 Twenty20 matches. In doing so, the Royals extended their own unbeaten run at home to 12 matches, and that will ensure that they play their semi-final match of the Champions League T20 also at Fortress Jaipur later this week.

The Otago Volts lost the toss and were invited to make first use of the pitch. They got off to a decent start before Man of the Match Rahul Shukla was brought on to bowl his first over of the tournament, and the rookie seamer stunned the Volts by taking 3 wickets in 5 balls to knock the stuffing out of their top order, removing Hamish Rutherford, Brendon McCullum and Derek de Boorder in a magical first over.

The Volts' allrounders came to the part with James Neesham and Nathan McCullum helping them rebound from that early loss to reach a decent score of 139-7 in their 20 overs.

The Royals got off to a decent start with Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Dravid (10) sharing a 49 run stand for the first wicket before the Royals' skipper fell to Nick Beard. The Royals then lost another 3 wickets for 5 runs as they slid to 72-4 in the 13th over to find themselves in a spot of bother. Rahane anchored the innings, while Brad Hodge came in at no.6 and tonked the ball from the word go.

Hodge played some brilliant cricket to see his side to victory, smashing 52 from just 23 balls to take Rajasthan over the line and into the semi-finals as Group winners.

Otago would hope to join them there, and would probably richly deserve to, but will need the Perth Scorchers to do them a favour tomorrow night against the Mumbai Indians, who need to win either by 49 runs if batting first , or inside 15 overs if chasing to pip the Volts on net run rate.

Mini Scorecard:

Otago Volts 139/7 (20 overs, 6.95rpo)

J Neesham 32 (25) R Shukla 3-23 (4)

N McCullum 28* (20) K Cooper 2-33 (4)

Rajasthan Royals 142/6 (20 overs, 7.4rpo)

B Hodge 52* (23) J Neesham 3-22

A Rahane 52 (48) N Wagner 2-33

Rajasthan Royals win by 4 wickets