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Cricket amid royalty

Horses and elephants maybe more common than a cricket ball in Jaipur, but the city has witnessed some memorable on-field performances

A general view of the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd match, Jaipur, October 17, 2006

The historic palaces keep an eye on the action too  •  AFP

Cricket is not the first thing that comes to mind when one talks about Jaipur. The city has always been a prime destination on India's tourism map, and with all its forts, palaces and regal air, it is steeped in colour, culture and history. There is the iconic Hawa Mahal, surrounded by busy jewellery bazaars, and the Amber Fort is an elephant ride away. Think of a sport in Jaipur and polo is probably a better fit. But cricket not only exists in the city, it thrives there.
The Sawai Mansingh Stadium, the main cricket venue in the city, hosted its first international match - an ODI against Pakistan - in 1983, but the ground was at the centre of attention when Pakistan president General Zia-ul-Haq came over to watch a Test between the neighbours in 1987. Since then it hosted the odd match for a couple of decades, including a few during the 1987 and 1996 World Cups, but it took another mercurial personality to lift the fortunes of Jaipur - Lalit Modi. The ground has been a regular venue for international matches since 2005.
Great matches
India v Sri Lanka, October 2005
Kumar Sangakkara's unbeaten 138 powered Sri Lanka to an imposing 298 in the first of the five-match ODI series and India's chase was jolted when Chaminda Vaas took out Sachin Tendulkar in the first over. In walked MS Dhoni - still in his first year in international cricket - and launched a blinding assault, which included ten sixes and 15 fours in an unbeaten 183. India won with nearly four overs to spare.
India v Pakistan, March 1999
In the Pepsi triangular tournament, Pakistan beat India three times in three matches to take the trophy. The first win, in Jaipur, was the biggest. Saeed Anwar's 95 set the base for Pakistan's 278, and when India started their chase, two of their best batsmen - Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid - were blown away by Shoaib Akhtar. India never recovered from the early shock and were bowled out for 135 in the 37th over.
India v South Africa, February 2010
South Africa needed 62 off the last five overs, but were eight down. The game was almost in India's bag. Or so they thought. Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell smashed the ball to all parts of the ground to bring the equation to ten off the last over. It came down to three off the last ball, but Parnell was run out attempting a second to give India a one-run win.
Major players
Hanumant Singh
Home team
Rajasthan had a golden run in the Ranji Trophy in the '60s, when they made seven finals (though they went on to lose to Bombay every time). The second purple patch came almost 40 years later, when they took the Ranji title in 2010-11. They made sure that win was no fluke, by winning the trophy again the following year.
With the IPL came glitter, and the home team - Rajasthan Royals - turned that into a Jaipur light-fest with a win in the opening edition. They have lost their stars of the first season - Shane Warne and Yusuf Pathan - though, and are yet to repeat their early success.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo