Faulkner, Watson swamp Sunrisers
Rajasthan Royals 146 for 2 (Watson 98) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 144 for 9 (Sammy 60, Faulkner 5-20) by 8 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The match had almost all the ingredients of an absorbing Twenty20 contest. Sunrisers Hyderabad lost their top order in a cycle-stand collapse, before Darren Sammy led a lower-order revival to push the score to 144. On a pitch assisting the seamers, Rajasthan Royals had to deal with a testing opening period of swing and seam, which the experienced duo of Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson negotiated. Watson, coming off a century in Chennai, paced his innings and powered Royals home with a blistering unbeaten 98.
Watson wasn't the only Australian making waves at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. James Faulkner demolished the Sunrisers' top order during a five-wicket haul, the first of IPL 2013. Faulkner and the innocuous Ajit Chandila reduced Sunrisers to 29 for 6, raising expectations of early finish. The top six registered scores of 2,0,4,4,6,4 - leaving much responsibility on Sammy.
Kumar Sangakkara had dropped himself for three games owing to his indifferent form, but his return made no difference as he joined the early procession of wickets. After Akshath Reddy fell off a leading edge against Chandila, Sangakkara chased a wide delivery from Faulkner and edged to second slip for 4.
Though the pitch gave a lot of assistance to the seamers in terms of movement and bounce, the shot selection by the Sunrisers was poor. Shikhar Dhawan slashed straight to backward point and Karan Sharma, walking in unexpectedly at No.5 - just as Amit Mishra did in Chennai - succumbed to the pressure of needing quick runs by top edging Faulkner to fine leg. Thisara Perera perished to a one-handed slog down to long-on before Hanuma Vihari gloved Kevon Cooper down the leg side. It was the first time Royals had managed so many wickets in the Powerplay.
Sammy and Amit Mishra scripted Sunrisers' recovery with a stand of 58. Sammy made room against the seamers to clear cover and shoveled the ball over midwicket to give the innings some impetus. He hit the first six of the innings in the 13th, a pull off Siddharth Trivedi over deep midwicket. He celebrated his fifty - his first in T20s - in unique style, pulling out a baby pacifier tied around his neck sucking at it, for his baby daughter.
The seventh, eighth and ninth wickets added 115, giving the Sunrisers bowlers a fighting total to try and defend.
Watson and Dravid, however, used their experience to counter the swing and prevent the loss of early wickets. Several deliveries came back into the right-hander, but Watson ensured he played the ball late, dabbing it down to third man and behind point. He did offer some chances, though. On 16, an outside edge off Perera just beat a diving Sangakkara, and another just dropped short of Sammy at slip.
Royals had progressed to 53 for 1 after ten overs, with the asking rate passing nine. The partnership gathered pace in the second half of the innings, Dravid launching Royals' march with a six over long-on. A costly Ishant Sharma over, which leaked 20, included three fours and a six by Watson. The next, off Perera, went for 15 and hastened Royals' march to the target. Three powerful blows to deep midwicket, by Watson off Karan Sharma, sealed a clinical win.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo