The spectators at Kingsmead were treated to yet another humdinger as the Rajasthan Royals prevailed by two runs in a see-saw encounter with the Mumbai Indians. Rajasthan were in control of the game for 14 overs before Sachin Tendulkar and Abhishek Nayar opened out and gave Mumbai hope. It all came down to the final over when Mumbai needed four runs but a combination of some incredible death bowling by Munaf Patel and panic running resulted in three wickets, incredible scenes and a third-place spot for Rajasthan.
When Nayar made room and lofted Johan Botha over deep extra cover in the penultimate over, Mumbai - who battled required rates crossing nine an over - suddenly needed six off nine deliveries. The following delivery, Nayar played all around a yorker, lost sight of the ball and ambled out of his crease, only to be run out by the keeper. The dismissal was as untimely as Mumbai's revival, which came a little too late and resulted in a last-minute scramble for the required runs.
Munaf had leaked 14 off his previous over but Warne was brave enough to toss the ball back to him for the final over. Munaf beat Dhawal Kulkarni off the first ball and then slipped in a yorker to trap him lbw. Chetanya Nanda pushed the third, a full toss, to mid-off but perished to a direct hit. That put Harbhajan Singh back on strike but he could only squeeze a single off the next ball. Three were needed off two balls when Lasith Malinga took strike but yet another suicidal single, this time to cover, closed out the match.
It took a good 15 overs for the chase to actually come alive. Mumbai were kept on a tight leash by some excellent restrictive bowling by Rajasthan, particularly the slower bowlers. The duo of Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar - with 20 years of experience behind them - were silenced, to the extent that they had to settle for singles and an array of dot balls when the situation demanded at least a boundary every over to keep with the rising asking rate.
Much of that had to do with the early loss of wickets. At 23 for 3, Mumbai looked to their most explosive pair to give the innings a shove but the ball somehow just didn't find the boundary. The spinners were spot on target, varied their pace and slipped in the odd yorker. The boundary drought lasted 45 balls, before Tendulkar chipped down the track and lofted Warne over extra cover.
Jayasuriya tried to break free by slog sweeping the spinners but those heaves met thin air. When he connected, the ball ballooned off the bottom half of his pad and skied to short midwicket where Yusuf Pathan took a diving catch. JP Duminy barely had enough time to settle in before he chopped one from Siddarth Trivedi onto his stumps. It was a smart bowling change by Warne, who decided to bring in a seamer after Tendulkar charged Yusuf and carted him over long-on for a massive six. The anxiety levels in the Rajasthan camp shot up when Tendulkar slammed Ravindra Jadeja down the ground for three consecutive boundaries.
Warne let out a war cry when he trapped Tendulkar fell lbw trying to sweep him but the game was far from over, at least in Nayar's mind. With a stance as imposing Lance Klusener, he took his left leg out of the way to mow Botha for consecutive fours over the on side and the following over, he did the same to Munaf. The equation had come down close to a run-a-ball before panic set in.
There were doubts as to whether Rajasthan had made enough especially after Rob Quiney and Jadeja had given the innings the impetus with a stand of 61 in six overs. Rajasthan Royals' shoddy batting effort against Deccan Chargers demanded a few changes at the top of the order and Quiney responded positively to his recall to the side in place of the inconsistent Swapnil Asnodkar. In his earlier games, Quiney often made starts, only to throw it away. Tonight, he seemed determined to stay at the wicket and play the dominant role in the stand with Jadeja, who matched Quiney in his powerful shots over the on side.
The spinners had held the initiative with some tight bowling to pressurize the top order but the pair chose attack as the best form of defence. Between overs 12 and 15, Rajasthan managed 50 runs and the batsman who started the domination was Jadeja, who cut Harbhajan past point and slog swept over the on side. Quiney was particularly strong over the onside, slog sweeping Duminy high over deep square-leg before tonking Bravo for 19 in an over. The power behind his strokes stood out as he sent the ball sailing at least half a dozen rows back.
An excellent legstump yorker by Malinga sent back Quiney for 51 and after his departure, the runs dried up. Rajasthan managed only 22 off the last five overs and lost three wickets in the final over of the innings, bowled by Jayasuriya. Mumbai also lost three wickets in the final over of their innings but it was Rajasthan who had the last laugh.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo