(Cricinfo) Brad Hodge’s late assault on Lions’ bowlers and an unexpected four-wicket burst from legspinner Pravin Tambe propelled Rajasthan Royals to the top of Group A with eight points and also extended their unbeaten run in Jaipur to 10.
Before the start of the match, 160 was thought to be a par score, even though 422 runs had come in the previous match between Otago Volts and Perth Scorchers. But Hodge smashed an unbeaten 46 off 23 deliveries, 20 of them in the last over bowled by Sohail Tanvir, Lions’ best bowler in the innings till then, to transform an average start into a match-winning total.
Royals, who were asked to bat, had made slow progress to 69 in their first 10 overs, with their first three batsmen already dismissed. But the innings was revived, first by a brief cameo from Shane Watson, then another equally important innings by Stuart Binny, before the late counterpunch by Hodge.
Over number 13 for Royals was the one that shifted the pendulum their way. Watson and Binny were in the rebuilding mode and the score stood at 83 for 3. Aaron Phangiso, who had bowled his two overs for 15 before that, wasn’t prepared for the attack. Watson smashed two sixes and a four, while Binny found the boundary as well to raise the run rate from below seven to above eight.
When Phangiso came to bowl the 16th, Watson had been dismissed, but this time Binny went after him, hitting the bowler for a six over wide long-on and following it up with a four through extra cover to spoil Phangiso’s figures to 52 runs in four overs.
From there on, the baton was passed to Hodge, who first picked up a couple of boundaries in the 17th over bowled by Dwaine Pretorius, and then destroyed Tanvir’s tally in the last.
Tanvir had only given 15 in his three overs. But he erred by bowling length in the second ball of the last over and Hodge dispatched it to the wide long-on boundary for four. The next ball was short of length and coming into the batsman, but Hodge managed to slap it over cover. He pulled the next over deep square leg for a six before punishing the last one – a fuller length delivery – over long-off.
Lions, in their chase, never got into a position to threaten the total – they lost early wickets, two of them in consecutive deliveries off Vikramjeet Malik – and all hopes of a late fight were doused once Tambe was introduced. Rahul Dravid had brought he 41-year-old legspinner in the team as a response to the pitch that was used for this game and the bowler didn’t disappoint. He struck on his third delivery, dismissing Hardus Viljoen, who had added 53 for the fourth wicket with Alviro Petersen. In his second over, he outfoxed Jean Symes with a wide floater that was driven straight to cover and then had Sohail Tanvir plumb in front with a fuller delivery. With six wickets down, the onus was on Petersen to lead the fight, but he missed a quicker leg break in Tambe’s third over to virtually end Lions’ challenge.
The difference between the two innings could be measured in the four overs Royals took advantage of during their batting. Overs number 8, 13, 16 and 20 were taken for 16, 22, 15 and 21 runs respectively, which meant Royals scored 109 runs in the remaining 16, a run rate of less than seven-an-over. Lions maintained a run rate between seven and eight throughout their innings but failed to find those big overs, the third over with 14 runs being the best for them.