Mon 9 April 2018
When Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson won the toss, and asked opposing our skipper Ajinkya Rahane to bat first in their opening fixture a few onlookers were surprised. After all, six of the past eight T20 matches played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium have been won by the side taking first knock. However, the way things mapped out, it looks like the experienced New Zealander correctly spotted that the pitch may do something early on…
Initially, we got off to a strong start, despite losing our debutant D’Arcy Short to a spectacular Kane run out when he was on just 5. Rahane and Sanju Samson, coming in at three, took the attack to the Sunrisers bowlers and dispatched them to all parts of the ground. Sanju in particular was seeing the ball well. Jinks was solid, scoring at a run a ball, but then Kaul forced him into an error and he was caught by Khan. At that stage, our score was a respectable 52 off 6.5 overs. Samson continued his mighty knock while another Rajasthan newcomer, Ben Stokes, bedded himself in. Everyone knew it wouldn’t be long before the world class England international went for a big stroke and when he did he was unlucky on two counts. First, that he didn’t quite middle it and second that Williamson, despite fumbling the ball in the deep, managed to catch it at the second attempt. The ball seemed to be magnetically attracted to the Kiwi…
That dismissal brought Tripathi to the fray, but just as he was getting started with his score on 17, he succumbed to the wiles of Al Hasan, caught by Pandey. However, at 92 for 4 from 13.2 overs the Royals innings was still quite well set and a total in excess of 150 was still on the cards. The Sunrisers bowlers, and the rather lively pitch, had different ideas though. Samson’s superb knock was ended by Al Hasan – one run short of what would have been a well-deserved half century. Gowtham followed five balls later for a duck and then Buttler joined him in the hutch for 6, bowled by wily spinner Khan who was turning the ball both ways.
Our innings then petered out somewhat, thanks to some fearsome and accurate bowling and a run out from our old boy Yusuf Pathan. A total of 125 for 9 was going to take some defending, even on a track as bouncy as this one.
Our opening bowlers still took to the task with relish. Both Kulkarni and Unadkat caused the Hyderabad opening pair of Saha and Dhawan difficulties. Unadkat got Saha caught in the deep by Laughlin for just 5 and despite an unlucky dropped catch which gave Dhawan a second chance, hopes were high that early Royal inroads could put Hyderabad under pressure. However, the game gradually slipped away as the demons in the pitch abated and Dhawan found his feet, then flourished. He ended up with a fine 77 not out from 57 balls, and Williamson played a support role knocking up an undefeated 36. The pair saw their team home with four overs and a ball to spare.
It is pretty much ten years to the day since Rajasthan Royals kicked off an IPL Campaign with a nine-wicket defeat – and that year we went on to win the tournament in glorious fashion, so this is no time for despondency. It is important to remember that even in this shortened version of the magnificent game of cricket, the IPL is a marathon not a sprint and there is a long way to go and much drama to be witnessed before the trophy is awarded!