IPL 2010 was back in India and expectations were high, both for the tournament as a whole and the Royals in particular. Australians Damien Martyn and Adam Voges - and Englishman Michael Lumb joined the Rajasthan fold, and with international legends Graeme Smith, Shaun Tait and, of course, all-time great Shane Warne still on board, another successful Royal run was on many Indian cricket fans’ wishlist.
The Royal’s first match was in Mumbai against the Indians, and again their IPL was kicking off without their most valuable player. Shane Watson was unsurprisingly picked to play for Australia in New Zealand and he was only going to be available from the 9th match. Furthermore, the Royals had lost Indian allrounder Ravindra Jadeja. Against MI both bowling talents were missed – the Indians amassing a huge total of 213. Surely it was game over?
To begin with that certainly seemed to be the case, with Goa Cannonball Asnodkar misfiring and running himself out without troubling the scorers second ball. The Royals were in further trouble when they lost two more wickets by the 7th over with a run rate of just a run a ball. Then Yusuf Pathan reached the crease – and a remarkable innings was about to begin…
Yusuf started cautiously with just 15 runs off 13 balls – but then he erupted like a run scoring volcano. The next 23 balls produced a barely believable 85. Pathan “The Punisher” pounded the MI attack to every corner of the ground - scoring the second fastest century in T20 cricket history. The Mumbai crowd fell silent - in awe of this wondrous display of power hitting. Yusuf was seeing the cricket ball like a football – and he seemed destined to take his team to their first triumphant start to an IPL campaign, but then, a cruel twist of fate. With 40 runs needed off 18 balls, a straightforward proposition the way Yusuf was pummelling the attack, he was unluckily run out at the non-striker’s end when the ball was flicked by the bowler onto the stumps after a straight drive from Paras Dogra.
The end of Yusuf’s iconic innings heralded another opening day defeat for the Royals, with Zaheer Khan and Lasith Malinga bowling well at the death, but once again the Royals had thoroughly entertained a capacity crowd. Their next game was to be the first at their newly adopted home, Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
This time there were no fireworks from Pathan and the Royals only mustered 141 on a very good wicket. In reply Virendra Sehwag scored 75 off 34 balls and Delhi won easily. To make things worse the Royals lost Graeme Smith and Dmitri Mascarenhas for the rest of the tournament. Smith broke his finger trying to take a diving catch and Mascarenhas twisted his ankle badly. Before he flew home to South Africa, the Springbok captain made an inspiring speech to fellow players in the team room. Hopefully it would make a difference, the Royals had never lost both opening matches before…
However, in their next match against RCB, despite Lumb and Martyn coming into the team, the Royals were bowled out by RCB for just 92. Bangalore won by 10 wickets after chasing down the target in just 10 overs. Three matches – three defeats. The Royals IPL campaign was coming off the rails. There was only a day’s gap between the game in Bangalore and the Royals next match against KKR in Ahmedabad, and a victory was desperately needed…
When Michael Lumb was bowled first ball of the match, Royals fans had a terrible feeling of déjà vu. But after that every batman in the Royals line up made a meaningful contribution, with Abhishek Jhunjhunwala top scoring with 45 off 36 and a final flourish from Adam Voges with 37 off 22. KKR were set a competitive total of 169.
Skipper Warne then surprised everyone by choosing a spinner to open the bowling. Yusuf duly delivered – bowling a tight over which went for just 5 runs. In the next over Aussie firebrand Shaun Tait only conceded 6 runs and the tone was set – all the Rajasthan bowling was tight. As the overs remaining ticked down, KKR left themselves too much to do on a tough wicket. Parsimonious bowling and keen fielding had contributed to a much needed Royals win. KKR could only reach 134 in their 20 overs.
The Royals then went to Mohali to play Kings XI Punjab. Batting first, for the second match in a row, the Royals got contributions from every batsman and totalled 183. Voges finished the innings well again with 45 off 24. In reply, Kings XI got off to a flyer, but better late than never, the Royals attack realised they needed to bowl much slower on the Mohali wicket. Again the team turned a match on its head. The Punjab innings fell apart and they ended up all out for 152. The Royals had their feel good factor back!
Next up were defending champs, the Deccan Chargers in Ahmedabad. It was the Royals sixth game in 14 days with all the traveling in between and the players were exhausted. But this was a clash between the winners of the first two seasons and pride was at stake, as well as valuable IPL points. The Royals put in a great bowling performance and restricted DC to just 148. Tait got 3 for just 22 runs and Warne conceded just 15 in his 4 overs.
In reply, Lumb and Ojha got the Royals off to an excellent start – accumulating 50 in the power play. Then Yusuf walked in and hammered 73 of just 34 balls. Rajasthan reached their target at a canter. Suddenly the Royals were on fire! After their disastrous start, hopes were high that this could be another successful campaign.
Next up Chennai Super Kings, led by the India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Batting first, Naman Ojha and Michael Lumb got the Royals off to a fabulous start. Lumb then succumbed with the score at 48 after 4 overs. Naman kept going however, batting really well until the 18th over. His total of 80 from 49 balls helped the Royals reach 177 – an above par score on the Ahmedabad track.