Rajasthan Royals strolled to the top of the table with an eight-wicket win over Deccan Chargers, who offered little resistance in a match that was effectively decided in the first innings. Deccan posted a below-par 140 and looked listless as Rajasthan's efficient batting chased the target with four overs to spare.
After their batsmen collapsed in spectacular fashion following Adam Gilchrist's dismissal, Deccan's fielders, perhaps hindered by the dust storm blowing across the stadium, failed to save runs and apply any pressure on Rajasthan. Deccan have now lost six matches out of eight and, with six games to play, their chances of making the semi-finals look dim.
It all looked very different at the start. Gilchrist, the stand-in captain, said his batsmen had the challenge of putting up a total that his bowlers could defend. He led the way, starting off the evening with a cover drive off the first ball and following it with a cut to backward point as Sohail Tanvir went for eight runs in the opening over. Shane Watson was flicked for a massive six to square leg when he sent down a half-volley and Munaf Patel was glanced for a four to fine leg.
Herschelle Gibbs joined the fun by lifting Watson for four over cover soon after he was dropped by Graeme Smith when attempting the same shot. Gibbs struggled to pick Shane Warne and was nearly stumped off Warne's first delivery - his foot was in the air and Mahesh Rawat removed the bails just as he brought it down to the ground. Gilchrist had no trouble negotiating Warne, but fans eager to watch a contest between the legspinner and the man who kept wickets for him, were to be disappointed for Gilchrist only faced four balls from Warne; he took singles from each.
Only after he reached his fifty did Gilchrist, dropped on 52 by Siddharth Trivedi, start throwing his bat at nearly every delivery. He was dismissed when, in reaching for a wide one off Trivedi, he edged the ball to the keeper.
At the end of ten overs, Deccan were at 74 for 1. When Gilchrist was dismissed, four overs later, they were 97 for 3. In the next three overs they lost three wickets for five runs - Shahid Afridi, who charged down the track to Warne and edged to third man, Rohit Sharma, run out by a direct throw from Warne, and Sanjay Bangar, who edged Watson to the keeper.
Much of this was, however, down to Rajasthan's bowlers and fielders, who kept their cool while Gilchrist was batting and put the brakes on the scoring after his dismissal. Watson and Tanvir went for 20 and 16 respectively in their first two overs but they came back for their second spells determined to make amends. In his third over Watson picked up Bangar's wicket and after Venugopal Rao hit Tanvir for successive fours, the bowler countered with skidding yorkers to slow Deccan.
Deccan appeared uninspired by their low score and their lack of confidence may have worked to Rajasthan's advantage as Smith and Yusuf Pathan edged and slogged their way to a 109-run opening stand. Yusuf lifted a good-length delivery off Scott Styris for six just after he was nearly stumped by Gilchrist. He then targeted Pragyan Ojha, hitting him for 17 runs in one over where he pulled a short ball for six, slog-swept to mid-off for four and then had a two converted to four after Rohit Sharma touched the boundary rope with his foot while fielding the ball.
There was little answer to the attack. Gilchrist spent a lot of time talking to his bowlers - six were used in the first ten overs - and fielders but nothing seemed to work. Their spirit - or lack of it - was best summed up in the life given to Yusuf at 30. He top-edged a delivery from Afridi to midwicket and DP Vijaykumar ran uncertainly towards it and slowed down just as the ball fell in front of him.
Deccan now lie just above the Bangalore Royal Challengers at the bottom of the points table and winning this game would have eased a little pressure in their bid to avoid elimination. They now face three tough games - two at home, against the resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians and one in Delhi against the Daredevils.