Watson, Samson keep Royals' citadel intact
Rajasthan Royals 173 for 6 (Samson 63, Watson 41) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 171 for 6 (Gayle 34, Watson 3-22) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
For the second time this season, Rajasthan Royals promoted a wicketkeeper to No. 3, and stunned the opposition to set up a win. Chasing 172, with Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Owais Shah yet to bat, Kerala's 18-year-old Sanju Samson scored 63 off 41, leaving Royals 56 to get off 34 balls, which they chased, but not without the mandatory inexplicable drama that is the IPL's USP. Watson, who left the chase all but finished, had been instrumental in keeping Royal Challengers, who have now lost all their four away matches, down with the wickets of Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli among his three.
The game began with Royals presenting Gayle spin when hostile short bowling has only managed to trouble him. Gayle raced away, but Watson got him for 34 off 16 with an innocuous-looking delivery angling away from him. From 44 for 1 in four overs, Royal Challengers went without a boundary for 6.1 overs. The run rate fell, and when AB de Villiers and Kohli tried to correct it, they both holed out.
With the innings not going anywhere, R Vinay Kumar gave them a fighting target with three sixes of James Faulkner in the final over, two of those off slower balls. Faulkner had had a good birthday until then with two catches a run-out. Vinay would try to turn the game around in the last over of the next innings too, but that's for later.
In the chase, Royals stayed with their plan of using Watson lower down the order. Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane opened, and got them off to a swift enough start, but it was Samson who pinched Royal Challengers. There might have been the odd slog, but a major part of the innings relied on cricketing shots. The standout was successive sixes over extra cover to welcome Murali Kartik, who would have hoped he had not recovered from his illness in time for this match.
Those sixes took Royals to 60 for 2 in 7.2 overs, and the chase was on its way. Watson played the second fiddle while Samson went at it, reaching 25 off 21 by the time Samson fell. Watson and Hodge went about with the pursuit coolly until Hodge seemed to have killed off the chase with two sixes off Ravi Rampaul in the 18th over. If you thought 18 off 15 was the done thing, though, you haven't watched enough of IPL.
Watson top-edged RP Singh in the next over, but six off six was easy enough. However, Hodge tried to finish it off in one hit, and was bowled to leave five to get off four. Owais Shah then managed to get run out at the non-danger end, and we were smack in the middle of an IPL implosion. Back to the same last-over characters: Vinay and Faulkner.
Faulkner took the single, and then Stuart Binny pulled a four to beat the team that carries his home city's name.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo