All-round Rajasthan seal maiden win
Finally, Rajasthan clicked as a unit and won a game. It was a slow wicket, perhaps one of the slowest tracks in this IPL, and Rajasthan, whose batsmen were harassed on bouncier pitches in this tournament so far, immediately looked more at home. Abhishek Jhunjhunwala led with a serene 45 to ensure Rajasthan capitalised on a solid start to end up with a very competitive 168, a total which they defended with a disciplined show from their spinners.
Kolkata didn't help their cause by a poor batting effort in the chase. Keeping wickets in hand is a sound ploy of course but they struggled to score runs and allowed the pressure to build up. Brad Hodge was the guiltiest of the lot. It might seem harsh for he scored almost a run-a-ball 36, but he never accelerated and allowed the chase to meander along. Hodge's approach was even stranger, considering Angelo Mathews and Owais Shah were cooling their heels in the dressing room. Even when he was well-settled, he waited for the new batsmen to attack, which was always going to be difficult on this slow track which aided the spinners. And Sourav Ganguly, too, struggled today though unlike Hodge, he tried to go for the big shots but could rarely find his timing. It might have been a plan that Hodge would drop anchor and the others hit around him but he never adapted to the changing demands of the chase.
Rajasthan relied heavily on spin - they started with Yusuf Pathan who took out the opener Manoj Tiwary with a quick skidding delivery and later returned to take out Brad Hodge - and it paid rich dividends on this pitch. It also helped that Shane Warne finally found his mojo today - he found drift and turn to keep the batsmen honest. Hodge was content, nudging Warne around, Pujara couldn't break free against him, and Ganguly couldn't connect with his intended big hits. Only Pujara played with a sense of purpose, hitting four fours right away on arrival at the crease but he too was slowed down by the spinners. And the chase had derailed.
At the toss, Warne had reckoned that 175 would be a good total and his batsmen responded well to the captain's call. They attacked with a plan, with one batsman looking to get after the bowling while the other rotated the strike. While Naman Ojha tried to find his touch, Faiz Fazal attacked at the start; while Jhunjhunwala settled in, Ojha attacked; and when Yusuf was new to the crease, Jhunjhunwala collected a few boundaries. Every time a wicket fell, they counterattacked. We don't know whether all this was planned or it just transpired that way in the middle, but what the approach did was to give Rajasthan a total that they were able to defend on this slow track.
It was Fazal who set the ball rolling with his attacking approach at the top. He walked in after Michael Lumb was trapped in front by Ashok Dinda for a first-ball duck and immediately looked to get after the bowling. In the same over, he swiped for a four but it was in the third over that he really got going with three boundaries against Dinda. He thrashed down the ground, pulled across the line and swung a delivery from outside off to the square-leg boundary to make his agenda very clear.
Fazal fell soon, flat-batting Shane Bond to mid-off but Ojha took over the attacking role to collect a few muscled boundaries against Matthews. However, he was run out in the ninth over, going for the second run but failing to beat an accurate throw from Mathews at long leg. Enter Yusuf and he drove couple of boundaries but yet again fell to the short ball, mistiming his attempted pull shot.
Jhunjhunwala, though, carried on and played a serene knock filled with late cuts, on drives and nudges into gaps, to push Rajasthan on. When he fell in the first ball of the 18th over, it looked like Rajasthan might lose their way but Adam Voges freed his arms to loot 17 runs in the final over, bowled by Ishant , to charge Rajasthan to a respectable total, which proved enough in the end.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo