Bangalore reprise a familiar script
Much had changed statistically since these two teams last met, but in terms of familiarity of sequence it was pretty much the same story. The recipe for success was simple, and Bangalore stuck to it much like they did in the previous encounter - Rajasthan Royals' batsmen were found out once again, by arguably the best bowling attack in the IPL.
It was in the field that Bangalore began repairing the damage from their morale-sapping defeat in the previous match. There was a familiar theme to Rajasthan's troubles, with pace and seam causing most of the problems. During their last match against Mumbai Indians, the new-ball pair of Zaheer Khan, especially, and Dhawal Kulkarni caused Rajasthan's batsmen many problems and here it was Vinay Kumar, Pankaj Singh and Dale Steyn repeating the dose. Steyn was hostile with the new ball, despite not achieving significant movement, Vinay varied his pace and Pankaj went hard into the pitch and generated appreciable bounce. Throw in Jacques Kallis' back-of-length precision and it again made for a forceful attack, especially when fielding first.
Vinay set the tone in his first over, and the rest of the pace bowlers took a cue. Vinay doesn't stand out as the ideal Twenty20 bowler. He doesn't have a searing yorker or mischievous changes of pace, and relies on plugging away to take wickets, seemingly not the best tactic when a bowler has just four overs. But his efforts tonight, which began with a clear short-of-a-length strategy, propelled Bangalore into the groove early. He began with a good delivery that was squirted for three, and a run-out followed. Then came an aggressive bouncer to Amit Paunikar, on debut, which was top-edged to the wicketkeeper. The intention was evident - Bangalore were here to hustle.
Then it was over to Pankaj with his with his hit-the-deck, back-of-a-length attack. In his first game of the tournament, Pankaj showed the adaptability that is required in Twenty20, mixing his pace and cramping the batsmen for room. Naman Ojha was kept quiet and a poor slog resulted. Pankaj began with a wicket-maiden and preyed on the batsmen's patience. Shane Watson was not given any room and that led him to pull a short-of-a-length ball, while Yusuf Pathan was welcomed with the short stuff.
The most crippling blow came when Steyn returned and cleaned up Yusuf first ball of the 14th over, but that was merely the finishing touch on a planned approach, which Vinay admitted to during the mid-innings break. During these teams' last encounter, the use of the bouncer to Yusuf was a central part of Bangalore's thumping win. So was the case tonight. He was welcomed with a bouncer from Kallis well outside off stump which was called wide. The second ball was a sharper short delivery which Yusuf pulled away. Cut to Pankaj, a rank rookie playing his first match of the tournament, who began with a bouncer to Yusuf. He went for the upper cut and missed, beaten for pace. That's gotta hurt. The next ball was also short and Yusuf inside-edged it onto his thigh pad. Another short ball followed, and Yusuf connected with a loose pull for one. Back on strike a delivery layer, Pankaj tried another slower bouncer which Yusuf pulled with ease for four. Forget that it sped to the boundary; the bait had been set.
The next ball Yusuf faced was an entire over later. Steyn was called back into the attack. Yusuf was expecting the bouncer and stood back in his crease. Steyn served it full and very fast and off stump went for a walk. Yusuf's frailties against the short ball had again led to his dismissal and with their most destructive player gone, Rajasthan had no chance of attempting a late surge.
Bangalore's fielding was another throttling aspect. Virat Kohli was amazing inside the circle, especially on the off side where he regularly intercepted drives and pushes from Watson, and alongside Manish Pandey and Kevin Pietersen he saved runs on reputation alone. With Rajasthan unable to locate the boundary regularly, the momentum never arrived. Pietersen took a sharp catch at square leg to get Watson, and Anil Kumble, hardly the most agile fielder on the field, plucked a neat running catch to deliver Bangalore their sixth wicket.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo