23rd April 2009 - Newlands, Cape Town : The match against Kolkata Knight Riders was always going to be a tough affair for Rajasthan Royals. Persistent rains lead to a delayed start, however, much to the joy of all, the match started without any deductions. Having lost the toss and put into bat first, the Royals lost two quick wickets, that of Paul Valthaty and Rob Quiney. With two wickets down, Yusuf Pathan walked in with the side under immense pressure. Pathan started his innings with two mighty sixes and strung a quickfire 50-run partnership with Graeme Smith. Graeme Smith did not look his usual best but he fought it out and contributed with 15 runs. On the other end, Pathan continued his rampage and struck 6 boundaries and 2 sixes in his knock of 42 (21). However, the Royals had a double blow when spin-wizard Ajanta Mendis struck with the wickets of Smith and Pathan in the same over. At the end of the ninth over, the Royals had a healthy score of 73 but had lost their top 4 wickets.

It was upto the all-rounders to resurrect the innings. Young hero Ravindra Jadeja 22 (26) and Dimitri Mascarenhas Pathan 27 (28) played some good knocks and stitched up a valuable 5th wicket partnership of 39-runs. However, the constant pressure from the KKR bowlers, most notably Chris Gayle and Anureet Singh, ensured that the RR batsmen had to work hard for their runs. RR, 18 runs short of the 150 mark, were still struggling but Abhishek Raut had other plans. The young man smashed a beautiful boundary over point and 2 sixes to ensure that his team posts a competitive total of 150-runs on board.

When KKR came into bat, Warne had another surprise lined up fro them. He began with his slower bowlers within the first six overs – Pathan and the deceptive Mascarenhas. The bold move paid off handsomely for the team. The slower bowlers pinned down the KKR batting lineup and frustrated their batsmen. The only silver lining for the Knight Riders was the dominating Chris Gayle, who was later snapped-up by Shane Warne. While Dimitri Mascarenhas and Yusuf Pathan kept the runs in check, it was Kamran ‘Tornado’ Khan who was the chief destroyer of the KKR batting. His short run up and an awkward bowling action lead to the downfall of the Knight Riders.

The match was brilliantly poised at the strategic timeout. Saurav Ganguly bought all his experience into play and showed what a class act he still is. With the run-rate almost shooting-off the 10.5 runs an over, Ganguly played a cool, collected and destructive innings. Munaf Patel, who until then bowled very well felt the heat the most, when he was taken for 21 in his third over. That shifted the balance in the favour of the Knight Riders, and with 23 needed of the last three overs, Kolkata seemed to have had it right in the bag.

With 8 needed off 8, Warne stuck with the wicket of Yaspal Singh that left Ganguly furious. With Kamran Khan bowling brilliantly at one end, and Ganguly batting superbly at the other, the scene was set for an intriguing last over that needed seven. Khan started with a wide but bowled well thereafter and snapped up the crucial wicket of Saurav Ganguly. With 2 needed of the last ball, Ishant sneaked in a single but got run out trying to steal the next, resulting the match being tied with the scores leveled.

With a tie in place, each team had to now bowl an over each, Super Over, and team scoring the most runs wins the match. KKR batted first, with Gayle, McCullum and Ganguly, and managed to score 15 runs with Kamran Khan taking the wicket of Chris Gayle of his last ball, not before Gayle struck him for three successive 4s. The Royals then lined up Pathan, Jadeja and Mascarenhas, needing 16 to win, against Ajanta Mendis who would bowl the Super Over for the Knight Riders. Facing Ajanta, the bowler who took Pathan’s wicket earlier in the day, it was redemption time. The tension was high, the atmosphere electrifying and Pathan stuck the first ball for a six over of mid-off. With 10 runs needed, Pathan miscued the next that landed safely between long off and long on. He then made the most of the opportunity provided whan he smashed the third ball over mid-on for a massive six and the Royals inched closer to victory. Mendis, was clueless whereas Pathan was fearless, smashing the ball all over the park. He finished the game with a magnificent boundary over square leg allowing RR to register their first win of the tournament. Pathan deservedly was awarded the man of the match award for his superb all-round performance.

The humble Pathan took no credit for his effort and attributed the win to complete team effort. Warne added that they started off on a disappointing note but had a point to prove especially because they are the defending champions and have a huge backing of the South African fans. The win would be a huge booster for the team’s morale and showed once again the leadership of Warne and the collective effort of the entire unit.


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