Bowlers hand Rajasthan easy win
Rajasthan Royals moved to the top of the table with a convincing seven-wicket win over Bangalore Royal Challengers, who looked out of depth as they were bowled out for 105 - the tournament's second lowest total - and conceded the win inside 15 overs. Naman Ojha scored his second consecutive half-century in the brief chase but the win was set up by Amit Singh and Ravindra Jadeja, who took seven Bangalore wickets to ensure a low target for their side.
The difference lay in how the two sets of bowlers exploited the bounce offered by the Centurion pitch; Bangalore's couldn't, Rajasthan's did to perfection. Bangalore used the short ball only after the strategy break, by which time the required run-rate was down to below five an over.
Shane Warne won a good toss and chose to field on a new pitch that had received rain overnight. Unlike in the last few games where he opened with spin from one end, he chose to give his fast bowlers a chance to exploit the conditions. Like the spinners, though, the fast bowlers gave favourable returns in their first spells. Batsmen found it difficult to counter the bounce when they tried to cut or pull though poor shot selection accounted for two of the first three wickets.
Amit struck first in the third over: Wasim Jaffer, who had been dropped by Amit in the previous over, drove a fuller delivery away from his body and popped a catch to cover. Jacques Kallis, after flicking a six off his pads from Munaf Patel, stepped out to a shorter delivery and top-edged a pull to Niraj Patel, who took the catch running from deep backward square leg to deep midwicket. Soon after, Rahul Dravid chased a Lee Carseldine delivery going down leg and gloved a catch behind for a duck.
Spin came into the picture in the eighth over when Warne brought himself on, and the steady fall of wickets continued. Robin Uthappa, Bangalore's top scorer with 17, survived a leg-before appeal in that over but fell off the first ball of the next, trapped plumb in front by Jadeja. Bangalore were reeling at 40 for four, which could have been five had Ojha collected a chance from Virat Kohli. The strategy break did them no good, Mark Boucher falling five balls after the re-start; he tried to cut an arm ball pitched full and just outside off from Jadeja, got cramped for room and was bowled for six.
Jadeja got Kohli next, outside-edging one that was pitched short and wide and Morkel holding on to a low diving catch behind point. The fast bowlers then returned to wrap up the innings as the last four wickets fell for 20 runs.
Bangalore bowled too many wide deliveries for a side defending such a low total and picked up their first two wickets as Rajasthan looked to wrap up the game quickly. Graeme Smith, after driving two fours each off Praveen Kumar and Dillon du Preez, stepped out to Jacques Kallis and was bowled after swinging and missing at a length delivery. Carseldine was given out after a mix-up with Naman Ojha saw the two batsmen at the bowler's end. Ojha made up for the dismissal with a massive six off Roelof van der Merwe in the next over Rajasthan went into the strategy break needing 44 with eight wickets in hand.
After the break Yusuf Pathan, Rajasthan's go-to batsman, and Ojha resisted the temptation to score off the short ball till du Preez returned to the attack. Pathan drove Kallis through cover for four and Ojha hit Vinay Kumar for a six over long-off. But Pathan fell, with Rajasthan needing only 15 more, when he tried to pull du Preez for a second time to fine leg and got a top edge instead. However, Rajasthan needed just two and a half an over by then and Ojha hit two fours and a six to wrap it up in the next over.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo