Centurion Rahane stars in big win for Royals
Rajasthan Royals 195 for 2 (Rahane 103*, Shah 60) beat 136 Royal Challengers Bangalore (Agarwal 34, Trivedi 4 for 25) by 59 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The game was effectively over when the players walked off for the innings break. Ajinkya Rahane's blistering, unbeaten 103 brought up the first century of IPL 2012, propelling Rajasthan Royals to 195 against an already battered Royal Challengers Bangalore. Assisted by Owais Shah's equally intimidating 60, the Royals piled on a score way beyond reach for the hosts and such was the dominance that the chase turned out to be a tepid affair.
Rahane also smashed six consecutive fours off an over - the first in Twenty20 history, S Aravind being the unfortunate bowler. Rahane and Shah - ten years apart - didn't just deliver for the team's cause but also nudged their respective national team selectors ahead of the World Twenty20, each getting two big scores so far this IPL. Their bowlers - led by Siddharth Trivedi - backed them up, hitting their targets like efficient salesmen, getting six batsmen bowled.
Ironically, the losing side had the bigger names. With the likes of Daniel Vettori, Muttiah Muralitharan and Zaheer Khan to contend with, it appeared as if the Royals worked to the plan of exploiting the less-experienced Indian bowlers. It was an extension of Royal Challengers' affliction from the match against Chennai Super Kings, when Virat Kohli leaked 28 off the penultimate over of the game.
At one stage, Aravind conceded 48 off three overs, almost the same number given away by Zaheer, Vettori and Murali off ten combined overs. A less-than-fit Chris Gayle, recovering from a groin injury, came on in the 16th over more as an act of desperation by Vettori and didn't fare any better than the other weak links, leaking 21.
The hammering Rahane dished out was reminiscent of Brendon McCullum's butchering at the same venue in the IPL's opening game in 2008. He began by splitting the gap past cover and backward point for two fours off Aravind in the second over. The onslaught that followed was so brutal that it's easy to forget Zaheer bowled a maiden over to Rahane, the third of the innings. Rahane showed no such respect for Aravind the following over, taking 15 off it, including a massive hit over long-on.
Vettori and Murali then pulled things back with five relatively quiet overs, going for 23. Vettori's spell only widened the gap between him and the rest. He varied his pace and flight, fired in the quicker ones to keep the batsmen guessing.
Rahane's merciless approach was best illustrated in the 14th over, which produced six fours. He drove Aravind forcefully down the ground off the first two balls, scooped the third to fine leg, pulled the fourth to midwicket, drove the fifth past cover and delicately dabbed the six to third man. Aravind varied his pace and length, AB de Villiers came up to the stumps but nothing deterred Rahane.
Shah began his party with a top-edged six over long leg, before ripping into Gayle. Vinay Kumar aimed for the blockhole, but somehow Shah found a way to get under the bounce and slam sixes down the ground. He brought up his fifty off just 19 balls before launching into Murali. He tried the same against a slower Zaheer delivery but was caught at long-on.
At the other end, Rahane started the final over needing seven for his century and he required just three balls to get there. After driving Vinay past mid-off, he flat-batted the third ball just past long-on's grasp to bring up the landmark. The Royals hammered 113 off the last seven overs, the third-best in IPL history.
Royal Challengers began the chase in enterprising manner, with Mayank Agarwal pulling the first ball for six over fine leg. But a double-strike by Pankaj Singh in the fifth over derailed the chase and took the fight out of the hosts. Agarwal was caught off a top-edge and two balls later, Gayle dragged one onto his stumps.
That followed a period of prolonged struggle for Royal Challengers, stumbling against the asking rate, compounded by the steady fall of wickets. The boundary drought lasted an unforgivable 37 deliveries and that was thanks largely to Trivedi's nagging line and slower deliveries bowled from back of a length, assisted by the slow pitch. De Villiers played on to one that kept low, Kohli and Saurabh perished swinging across the line, before Vettori lost his leg stump giving the bowler the charge. Trivedi's 4 for 23 was his personal best in the IPL and the combined efforts launched the Royals to the top of the table.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo