Rajasthan Royals vs Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunday 29th April 2018
Jaipur

When in excess of 20,000 cricket fans packed into ‘Fortress Jaipur’ on a sweltering 43 degree Sunday afternoon, many were hopeful of another classic to compare with the Mumbai Indians encounter a week earlier. Royals mentor Shane Warne was once again sat in the home dug out and he will also have been pining for a repeat spectacularly entertaining triumph. For a while this match seemed to be following the same pattern almost identically, but in the end the cricketing gods decided on a different denouement…

Into the Royals line up came Ish Sodhi to boost the bowling options available to skipper Rahane. Mahipal Lomror also entered the fray to hopefully add useful runs in the middle order.

Sunrisers won the toss and elected to bat. Opening up for them were Dhawan and Hales and they got off to a strong start. The first two overs went for 17 runs and the batsmen didn’t look in any trouble. But then our man of the moment Gowtham came onto bowl and it was no surprise when he became a hero once more, dispatching danger man Dhawan for 6 – bowled with one that shot through. That brought another dangerous opponent, New Zealander skipper Kane Williamson, to the crease. He took a liking to the Royals bowlers in our previous fixture and soon did so again here on our home territory.

Captain Kane initially scored at a leisurely run a ball, perhaps understandable bearing in minding the scorching conditions, but before long he started to grind through the gears and send the ball to the boundary on regular occasions. Frustratingly his partnership with Hales should have ended with the score on 31 and him on 11 when he edged Archer to first slip – only for the ball to hit the turf. Yet another catch in that part of the field spilled – and yet another costly error when a skilled opponent offers a rare chance.Understandably Jofra Archer let his displeasure be heard in all four corners of the arena.

By the end of the fifth over, SRH were 33 for 1 and both batsmen were looking well set and intent on building a formidable partnership. The last over of the powerplay was bowled by Unadkat and went for just 6, good control from the tall Indian left armer. Gowtham had also bowled well early doors. Overs seven and nine were delivered by Ish Sodhi making his debut for Rajasthan, and it was almost a glorious arrival like Archer’s the week before, but Ben Stokes dropped a tricky chance in the deep. They say catches win matches – but drops can lose them. Royals fans were hoping this wouldn’t be the case here. This time it was Alex Hales given a second life – how Big Ben would have loved to have removed his England team mate, but it wasn’t to be. A couple of balls later the ball went high in the air again, but this time it fell just before Jofra Archer – the bowlers weren’t having much luck…

After nine overs, the Sunrisers were 63 for 1 and the match was delicately poised. Warne summoned his proteges for a team huddle and was no doubt encouraging them to stay positive and forget the dropped catches – it is so easy to get demoralised when chances go begging.

After the time out, the SRH pair came out all guns firing and it looked like the Royals were going to be set a mammoth total. At the end of the 11th over bowled by Lomror, Hyderabad were on 78, and with just one batsmen out, the innings had a very strong foundation. When Unadkat bowled over 11 and it went for 21, Williamson reaching his 50 in the process, the omens weren’t good. After 13 overs, Hyderabad had reached 107 and a large total looked inevitable, unless the Royals started taking wickets and reining in the run scoring like they did against Mumbai.

Guess what? That’s exactly what happened! Gowtham deceived Hales and removed him for 45 caught at point stretching for a wider ball. Then Sodhi snaffled fellow New Zealander Williamson, brilliantly caught low down by Buttler for 63 from 43 balls.

Suddenly SRH were 126 for 3 from 16 – and not looking so confident. They felt even less confident when Shakib was out for 6 – removed by a man who often seems to make things happen, Jofra Archer. Royals old boy Yusuf Pathan soon followed him to the hutch, caught at third man from another Archer scorcher. With one over to go, the Sunrisers were on 143 for 6 thanks to Pandey being dismissed for 16. Archer was asked to bowl at the death and his set of six went for 8 (including a bye) and he got yet another wicket to end with his second consecutive ‘three for’ – what a talent.

The final SRH total of 151 was a little under par and the Royals must have been confident they could surpass it after their heroic run chase last time round. Opening up for Rajasthan once again were Tripathi and Rahane. The former must have been desperate for runs after a quiet tournament so far. Cricket often goes “good season – bad season” and that seems to be the case for the talented Indian at the moment. He was out in the third over for just 4 and with 13 runs on the board. That dismissal brought Sanju Samson to the crease. The Royal star has been in fine form this tournament, and it didn’t take long for him to dispatch the ball to the boundary. A beautiful effortless back foot drive on the off side was followed by a majestic six to the leg – and the Rajasthan fans were loving every minute. Skipper Rahane was playing a backbone innings at the other end while Sanju went through his full repertoire of scoring shots.

The pair built a wonderful partnership together – and the match started to swing the Royals way. At the end of the powerplay Rajasthan were on 43 for 1 and looking well set. Samson had reached 27 form 18 balls and the SRH bowlers realised they needed to get him out soon or he would take the game away from them. Rashid Khan was the most dangerous bowler for SRH and he was asked to remove Sanju in over 7 – but went for 10 and failed in his mission.

At the end of the ninth over the Royals were on 69 for 1 with two well set batsmen at the crease – Rahane 26 from 21 and Samson 39 from 28. The packed stadium was understandably optimistic. But then heart break – Samsun caught by Hales at midwicket for 40 – Kaul tempting him into a rare false stroke. Next batsmen in, big Ben Stokes. Another player who can take the game away from the opposition when the stars come into alignment. They didn’t here today though. Two balls, two dots then out to ex Rajasthan hero Pathan’s bowling. A half tracker somehow found its way through onto Stokes’s stumps – overarching disappointment for the England international and for the Royals fans in the crowd. By the look on his face he couldn’t believe what had just happened. And nor could his skipper, playing a stalwart innings at the other end.

Jos Buttler was next in and the Royalistas were hoping the experienced T20 star could see the team home with his skipper. For a while that looked very possible, but when he went for 10, the wheels were falling off the wagon. Rashid lured him into going for a big 6 when the ball wasn’t quite there and Dhawan made no mistake in the deep. Could new boy Lomror rescue the situation? It was a lot to ask – but at 96 for 4 from 14 overs the ‘ask’ was still possible. The Royals needed lots of ones and twos with a boundary or two each over to swing the match back in their favour. With Rahane still there that was very much possible.

50 runs from five overs needed. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out what was required each over. 10 jots on the scorer’s board. Jinks reached his 50 in the 17th over, but the Royals couldn’t keep up with the run rate. Lomror went for a big six which was clawed from behind the boundary rope and it was clear that luck wasn’t favouring us. He was out soon after for 11 and it was down to Gowtham to save the day again. But lightning didn’t strike twice and 21 from the last over was just too daunting a task. Rajasthan ended up on 140 for 6, losing by 11 runs. Rahane’s 65 from 53 balls will have been little consolation.

It was a disappointing ending – and the Royals will be left rueing spilt chances in the field again, but there are positives in the excellent bowling performances of Archer and Gowtham – and in the superb batting on Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane. If their team mates can come to the party in the next fixture against Delhi, then no doubt we will be back to winning ways soon!

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