RCB go top with continued home streak
On high-scoring grounds, Rajasthan Royals depend a lot on Shane Watson, and as he has been doing with Australia in this unfortunate run, Watson let Royals down too
On high-scoring grounds, Rajasthan Royals depend a lot on Shane Watson, and as he has been doing with Australia in their unfortunate run, Watson let Royals down too. From the moment Watson was caught superbly by Murali Kartik for six off 9, Royals limped through their innings for an inadequate 117. Royal Challengers Bangalore threatened the fashionable, inexplicable collapse, but a restrained Chris Gayle took them through with more than two overs to spare.
R Vinay Kumar operated intelligently against the middle order lacking in firepower, and his strikes kept pegging Royals back. The big wicket of Watson, though, went to Ravi Rampaul. Watson had begun with a four first ball, but was getting uneasy with his inability to find gaps at the top of the innings. In the third over, he tried to bludgeon one, but Murali Kartik took a smart overhead catch at mid-off.
Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane couldn't hit out, and Rahane was consumed by that pressure. Stuart Binny hit a few lusty ones, eventually took the run-rate past a run a ball, in the ninth over, but was bounced out by Karnataka team-mate Vinay in the next over. Dravid, given a rousing welcome by the "home" crowd, struggled so much that his strike-rate reached 100 only in the 14th over. He had faced 27 balls by then.
The pressure of all those dots was all consuming. Dravid holed out to long-on. Brad Hodge fell to Vinay trying to run one down. RP Singh then had a good time with the lower order, and picked up three for himself.
Unscarred Royal Challengers - with Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers their top four - would have blasted their way through this target and boosted their net run rate. This side, though, has been turning regulation matches into thrillers of late, and didn't eliminate drama despite a 53-run opening stand in 6.4 overs.
Watson, bowling for the first time in 2013, delayed the finish with the wickets of Dilshan and de Villiers. Kohli fell to James Faulkner in between. At 64 for 3 after nine overs, Gayle put his head down, and in the company of Saurabh Tiwary, who was playing his first match of the season, chose the middle path between a lightning chase and a dramatic one despite all the we-want-six chants from the crowd. He did give them what they wanted, but only after scores were level, raising his arms to seemingly tell the crowd he can hit them but chose not to. It was good enough to put their team joint-top on the table with a game in hand.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo