At the halfway mark in the Rajasthan Royals’ innings, things seemed to be going to plan. Eighty four runs on the board, nine wickets in hand and a great platform after the openers had given a flying start. Royals’ skipper, Shane Watson, had given himself a promotion up the order, opting to open the innings. In the company of Ankit Sharma, the all-rounder debuting for his franchise, the skipper and his sidekick took the Chennai Super Kings bowling apart.
Boundaries came thick and fast and as Watson thumped Vijay Shankar’s gentle offering, the last ball of the ninth over, into the deep midwicket stands, it looked as if the Royals were on course for a huge target.
However, at the end of the 20 overs, the scoreboard read 148 for eight. The Royals managed just 64 more runs in 60 balls, losing seven wickets in the process. This disaster was best explained by Steven Smith’s erratic eight-ball stay at the wicket.
The Australian, who had calmly led the Royals to victory chasing a stiff target in Bangalore, seemed to be in the mood to show off his repertoire of shots. He tried a lap sweep, two reverse sweeps and a ramp-cum-scoop shot. All these acrobatics gave him just five runs. He perished trying a similar improvised stroke and the three other batsmen followed him soon after.
Mohit Sharma, who has been impressive all through the tournament, was on the button once again. He picked up three for 31, intelligently working out batsmen with canny variations. The dismissal of Watson — he bowled two wide slower balls, a full-toss and then sent one full and straight which disturbed the Australian’s stumps — was indicative of Sharma’s intelligence with the ball. Ravindra Jadeja, who has not had the best of tournaments with the ball this year, sent down four tight overs. He kept things simple and his four overs went for just 18 runs, all while dismissing the dangerous duo of James Faulkner and Stuart Binny.
The latter’s wicket in the penultimate over in particular was a crucial one as Binny had already hit two sixes in a quickfire 22 off16 at that point. In reply, CSK lost Brendon McCullum early, the Kiwi sweeping the ball straight to Karun Nair at square-leg off Ankit. Suresh Raina fell cheaply, with Sharma sending him back. However, Dwayne Smith seemed oblivious to the troubles at the other end.