Seamers set up comfortable win for Royals
Rajasthan Royals 126 for 4 (Rahane 34*, Praveen 2-10) beat Kings XI Punjab 124 (Hussey 41, Sreesanth 2-20, Trivedi 2-21) by 6 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Days after he kicked up a storm on Twitter, Sreesanth brought about another, on the field, in a state known for its colourful storms. This storm was of the more desirable variety for everyone involved, except of course the opposition, Kings XI Punjab, who failed to play out their 20 overs for the second game in a row. For the second game in a row, David Hussey top-scored with 41, and for the second time in a row his side was beaten comprehensively.
After the Sreesanth storm - two wickets in his first over and a maiden to follow - there were persistent showers all around. James Faulkner, Siddharth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper got two each, snubbing every little rising from Kings XI. Their second wickets gave Cooper the purple cap and Trivedi lead over Shane Warne as the most successful Rajasthan Royals bowler. All this meant a below-par total to chase, which Royals did with ease.
A bowlers' captain, Rahul Dravid has stacked his side up with seamers and has played his home games on green tracks this season. This game was no different, and he won the toss too. A surprise was in the offing as the non-turning tall offspinner Ajit Chandila bowled the first over, but the game was damaged irrevocably in the second.
Sreesanth bowled fast and accurate, and there was enough movement around for him to become dangerous. Adam Gilchrist drove in front of his body and failed to keep the ball down, offering mid-off an easy catch. Off the last ball of that over, the talented Punjab batsman Mandeep Singh was done in by movement away and edged a cut to third man.
Arguably, Sreesanth's second over was better than the first, when he swung the ball away consistently, and the pressure resulted in a risky single, and a direct hit from James Faulkner at the only stump visible to him. After that maiden, Kings XI were 10 for 3 after four overs, and sides don't come back from that in Twenty20s. Well, except in World Cup finals.
And there was no Marlon Samuels around. Hussey tried his best, though, cutting and running hard, but he was desperately lonely in the fight. Trivedi came and immediately began to bowl short of a length and just outside off. The pitch provided him enough seam movement to make it seem monstrous in Twenty20. Gurkeerat Singh went first. R Sathish followed to a similar delivery from Faulkner. The big wicket came soon enough for Royals when Hussey failed to keep a slower one down, and Dravid took it on second attempt at mid-off. Kings XI were 75 for 6 in the 13th.
There was an odd swing from Azhar Mahmood and Praveen Kumar, but 124 was going to hardly test Royals. That total lost any such testing ambitions when the returning Shane Watson came and thumped the ball all around to score 32 off 19. That innings left Royals enough cushion for Ajinkya Rahane to absorb the middle-overs blows and take the team to a comfortable win with an equally important 34 off 42.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo