24 May 2008 - MA Chidambaram Stadium-Chepauk, Chennai : The crowds had their moneys worth in Chennai - well almost! Over 400 runs were scored in the encounter and the home team put up a great show to give a crack at the target of 212. The disappointment for the crowd would be that their team still needs to win their next match to walk into the semis; or hope that a few results go their way.
Warne, with Royals having cemented their semi-final berth, decided to experiment and rotate a few players. The Royals started the match without their ace, Watson, and decided to rest Jadeja, Rawat and Trivedi and got in Akmal, Pankaj Singh, Kohli and Salunkhe. Warne won the toss and opted to bat and set a target instead of the usual preference of chasing the target.
The innings opened with Smith and Asnodkar who were on the charge right from the word go. Asondkar got a free hit on the third ball and he lofted Ntini for a six! Smith did not take to long to join in and the Royals raised their 50 in the fifth over itself. The rampage continued even after the field restrictions were relaxed. Fresh from their recent century stand, the Royals' openers notched yet another century partnership, which came in the tenth over. Smith enjoyed a little more strike and the batsmen competed for shot-to-shot. Smith slammed his third 50 of the tournament off 29 balls. Smith then got after Balaji as he smacked the quickie for two boundaries and a six off one over.
At 127, Asnodkar got runout for 41, much to the joy of Chennai and possibly the only way the blitzkrieg would end. That bought in Kamran Akmal, who was probably sidelined to strike a balance in the Royals. Akmal, unleashed today, seemed hungry for runs has he lofted Raina for maximum on the third ball that he faced. With fatigue setting in, Smith was the next to go, not before he scored a fantastic 91 (51b, 9x4, 4x6). Akmal then took the onus to take the attack to the cleaners as he slammed a whirlwind 53 of 28-balls (4x4, 3x6). A couple of quite overs towards the end, meant that the Royals did not quite have the finish they would have wanted, but nonetheless, setting an imposing 212 to win.
Tanvir opened the attack but was surprisingly joined by Pathan. One way or the other, the move paid off as Fleming was runout with the score 15/1 at the end of the second over. Warne continued his 'rotating the bowlers' policy, which backfired with Munaf giving 19 in his first. Chennai looked to make a match of the target as they too got to their 50 in the fifth over. Raina was the aggressor in the alliance with Parthiv Patel but he held out to Kaif off Warne having made 45 in 24 balls and setting up the stage.
Morkel came in and took a few deliveries to settle-in as he was in the mood of an assault that could probably get his team home. The southpaw took the attack to the Royals and bought his 50 in 26-balls (5x4, 3x6). A quicker one from Warne foxed his partner Patel, who was out stumped, not before having complied a sold 54 off 40-balls. The match was well poised as the home team needed 55 off the last five overs with Morkel and Dhoni batting. However, a couple of good over from Pankaj Singh and Tanvir, who scalped the prized wicket of Dhoni, meant that the asking rate kept climbing and making the ask difficult.
With 15 needed off the last over, it was still anyone's game with Morkel still in there for Chennai. However, Tanvir's brilliance ensured that it wasn't to be a dream victory for the home team. To nail the final blow, Tanvir got Morkel and then Mukund, bowled off a beauty, in the last two balls to seal a 10-wicket Rajasthan Royals win. Smith's valiant effort, who did not take field due to a slight hamstring injury, may have been the differentiator; but it was Morkel's spirited show with bat and ball that fetched him the man-of-the-match even in the loosing cause.
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