Deccan undone by Warne magic
Shane Warne produced the old magic, and Rajasthan Royals yet again defied the odds to stun Deccan Chargers and maintain their incredible IPL record of always defending a 150-plus total. Even after Warne turned in career-best figures, Deccan were in control going into the final over of the match, with Rohit Sharma still there with a level-headed half-century. But Deccan bungled the simple job of getting six runs in the last six deliveries, losing their heads and three wickets to be bowled out off the penultimate ball.
Deccan have been abject with the ball and bat towards the end of the innings all tournament, but were in top form bowling in the final five overs of the first match in Nagpur. They snatched six wickets and gave away only 31 runs to keep Rajasthan to what seemed a gettable target after Shane Watson had bashed his second consecutive half-century to put Warne's boys seemingly on track for 180.
However, this proved to be of no avail as Adam Gilchrist's team couldn't correct their miserable record while batting at the death. In the face of a bewitching spell from Warne, Rohit kept Deccan relentlessly on course to a victory, and the match seemed over after the penultimate over from Morne Morkel was belted for 13 runs.
Rajasthan medium-pacer Siddharth Trivedi had different ideas though. There was little sign of the drama to come when he was penalised for a bouncer off the second ball to make the equation a simple four runs off five deliveries with three wickets in hand. RP Singh swung-and-missed the next one before miscuing a slower delivery to mid-on, where Morkel ran back to hang on to a smart catch. Harmeet Singh's run-out followed when Rohit wanted to get back on strike, attempting a non-existent second off an overthrow. The Deccan capitulation was complete on the next ball: Rohit slicing a lofted drive to the man at sweeper cover. Yet again, Rajasthan had come back from the dead, and a brilliant innings from Rohit ended with him flinging his bat to the ground in frustration.
The comeback had started with Warne's assortment of tricks. Coming on when Deccan needed 68 off 54, with only three wickets down, he willed his team on with a vintage display of legspin bowling. It seemed the struggles of this season would continue when he was dispatched for boundaries on dragging a couple of deliveries short, but all that changed when he had the left-handed Anirudh Singh inside-edging a legspinner onto the pad. The next ball was a slider, which took the outside edge and wicketkeeper Naman Ojha latched on to a sharp catch.
Warne was at his best after that, with the unusual sight of a spinner bowling with a slip and silly point towards the end of a tight Twenty20. His range of legbreaks took out Dwayne Smith and two tailenders in the next two overs setting the stage for Trivedi's heroics.
Deccan are now staring at elimination, but a controlled innings from the usually explosive Rohit had seemingly brought them firmly back into the semi-final race. His knock was less about the Hollywood hits and more about smart placement illustrated by the ninth over from Aditya Dole: there was a fine glance for four, besides four in-the-gap twos and a couple of legbyes as well.
Rohit's effort came after contrasting performances from Deccan's two big Australian stars. Gilchrist kickstarted the chase with typical haste, his familiar clean, quick swings of the bat resulting in a hurricane 34, while Andrew Symonds turned in an unconvincing 20-ball 15. No other Deccan batsman made it to double digits.
After winning the toss, Rajasthan were disappointed with their batting effort after two Deccan bowlers who have had indifferent tournaments - RP and Harmeet - had good outings, and Ryan Harris also justified his selection ahead of fast bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Kemar Roach.
Rajasthan's troubles started after Watson and Faiz Fazal had shepherded them to 94 by the 11th over. Their brutal hitter Yusuf Pathan walked in at that stage, but Harris exploited the familiar failing against the short ball to nip him out with a delivery that jagged into Yusuf, who could only jab it to backward point to exit for 5.
Watson blasted his way to his second half-century in two matches but wickets were tumbling around him. Harmeet got a couple of wickets in the 16th over, and Watson was undone by a slower bouncer from RP in the next. Warne was caught short by a direct hit and Trivedi holed out off the penultimate delivery to complete Rajasthan's slump from 103 for 3 to 159 all out. It didn't look an adequate total then, but the Rajasthan bowlers delivered to get the team back on track for a semi-final place.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo