Cape Town was, on Thursday, witness to what was by far the closest contest in the second edition of the Indian Premier League. Rajasthan Royals beat Kolkata Knight Riders after a 'Super Over' to register their first victory in the tournament after three matches.
With the scores tied at 150 after both teams completed their 20 overs, the 'Super over' was brought into play for the first time in the IPL, and Rajasthan Royals, needing 16 to win from it, got the runs through Yusuf Pathan, handing Knight Riders their second defeat in three outings.
Each team gets one over to bat in the 'Super over' and the team that scores the most emerges triumphant. If it is a tie, then the team that scores the most sixes in the over, wins.
Knight Riders scored 15 runs in their over, Chris Gayle hitting three successive boundaries off young Kamran Khan before losing his wicket, caught by Quiney at sweeper-cover, to the last delivery.
Yusuf then scored 6, 2, 6 and 4 off Ajantha Mendis to seal the issue in Rajasthan's favour.
Earlier, Rajasthan Royals, put into bat, struggled against some disciplined bowling by Knight Riders and were restricted to 150 for 6.
The defending champions, who had just one point from two matches in the tournament, again looked a pale shadow of the team that won the inaugural edition.
Change is the only constant. And changing their team composition was probably the only thing playing on the minds of the managements of both teams. How else would you explain the plethora of changes made in the starting line-ups?
So, while Ajantha Mendis, Anureet Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Sanjay Bangar made their way into the Knight Riders' side, replacing Moises Henriques, Murali Kartik, Ajit Agarkar and Aakash Chopra respectively, it was Abhishek Raut, Paul Valthaty and Rob Quiney who came up the order in the Rajasthan ranks, in place of Swapnil Asnodkar, Niraj Patel and Tyron Henderson.
But not every change happens for the better and the defending champions were the first team to realise that.
Valthaty (5) lasted seven balls before holing out to Ishant Sharma at deep point, Anureet getting his maiden IPL wicket.
Quiney smashed the first ball he faced (off Ishant) to deep midwicket boundary for the maximum, but it was Ishant who had the last laugh, getting the Australian to edge the next ball to Chris Gayle at first slip.
Rajasthan had been forced on the back foot right at the outset, at 14 for two off 14 balls, and their hopes of a revival were dependent on opener Graeme Smith and Yusuf Pathan, who came in at the fall of the second wicket.
And the duo didn't disappoint.
Yusuf announced his arrival with a big six followed by a boundary, both off Ishant. He continued to be the aggressive partner, as expected, in a third-wicket stand that yielded 54 runs in just 35 balls.
But just as things seemed back on track for the holders, a bowling change got Knight Riders the breakthrough they needed.
Mendis, with the first ball of his second over, caught Smith (15/21) on the wrong foot, quite literally. The Sri Lankan appealed for leg before initially, but the South African captain was eventually given out caught (by Gayle at slip).
Five balls later, Yusuf played a rash shot and Yashpal Singh made no mistake at point.
Yusuf scored 42 off just 21 balls, inclusive of six boundaries and two sixes, but he gave his wicket away at a time when Rajasthan desperately wanted him to continue.
Mendis's double-breakthrough had reduced the holders to 73 for 4 after nine overs; they added five more runs before the 'strategy break.'
Post the interval it hardly seemed a T20 game for the next five overs. Rajasthan players Ravindra Jadeja and Dimitri Mascarenhas struggled to score against Gayle (4-0-20-0) and Mendis (4-0-19-2).
At one stage in the Rajasthan innings there was no boundary for 49 balls before Mascarenhas could guide a Sourav Ganguly delivery to the fence.
However, that proved to be a fleeting happy moment as Rajasthan soon lost another wicket.
Jadeja, who had looked out of sorts during most of his stay, mis-hit an Ishant delivery and Yashpal took a comfortable catch at cover.
Rajasthan 112 for five after 16.2 overs and struggling, to put it bluntly.
Mascarenhas (27/28) made a desperate attempt to break free and survived a difficult chance -- Brad Hodge failing to latch on to a skier -- before being cleaned up by Anureet.
It took a few big hits from Abhishek Raut (21/13) -- the last over yielded 18 runs -- to give Rajasthan's total a semblance of respectability
RajasthanRoyals, having disappointed with the bat, were required to be spot on with the ball right from the start to have any chance of winning. And with Knight Riders having the likes of Brendon McCullum and Gayle to open, it was not an easy ask to defend a paltry 150.
So when YusufPathan came in to open the bowling it was definitely a surprise. However, to his credit Yusuf rose to the occasion, giving away just nine runs of his opening two runs.
Gayle cut loose in the fourth over (by Dimitri Mascarenhas),smashing sixes off successive balls. However, in the last ball of the same over Rajasthan got the initial breakthrough.
McCullum (3/9),looking out of sorts throughout his stay, tried to go over the fence but holed out to Kamran Khan.
Knight Riders sprung a surprise by sending in Laxmi Ratan Shukla at number three, and he survived twice in the first three balls he faced --the umpire not being interested in the first appeal and the 'keeper Mahesh Rawat dropping an easy chance.
Gayle smashed Mascarenhas for a boundary and a maximum of successive balls to keep up the tempo and then hit a six again after two overs -- the bowler who suffered this time was Yusuf, his final over cost Rajasthan 17runs.
However,Kolkata's move of sending Shukla up the order backfired and, to put it bluntly, there were not enough runs on the board.
Thatmeant Gayle had to take more risks. And in doing so he lost his wicket. Shane Warne, the Rajasthan captain, judging his desperation, lured him to come out and hit one straight to Ravindra Jadeja at long on.
In the next over Kamran accounted for Shukla (13/13), having him edge one back to the 'keeper -Rawat's atonement for the earlier blemish.
Going into the break, Knight Riders were 67 for 3, 11runs behind Rajasthan at that stage, albeit having lost a wicket less.
Andeven the interval didn't help matters either. In fact, the break helped Rajasthan rework on their strategies.
Warne handed the ball to Munaf Patel after resumption of play and he responded by accounting for Brad Hodge (5/7)in his fifth ball.
SouravGanguly did manage to keep the scoreboard ticking from one end with three boundaries, including successive ones of Munaf's second over, but Sanjay Bangar struggled before eventually slicing a Kamran delivery to Graeme Smith at backward point.
Bangar'sdismissal was yet another example of a Warne masterstroke, this time pertaining to field placements.
Knight Riders 94 for five and needing 57runs of the last six overs, increasingly difficult but not impossible.
ThenGanguly, in the midst of many controversies going into the tournament, cut loose. Munaf's third over went for 22, including two successive sixes, one of a no-ball (over deep square leg) and another of the resulting free hit (over long off).
Andthat over turned the match in Kolkata's favour. They needed just 31 off the last four overs.
Aboundary each in each of the subsequent overs took them further close.
However, T20and twists go hand in hand and this match had another twist in store.
Yashpal Singh (20 of 18 balls, 3x4),who had hung around giving Ganguly some admirable support, lost concentration and Warne took advantage of that having him caught at deep extra cover.
Gangulywas livid, for he had advised the batsman to keep his cool after the previous delivery.
Sevenruns off the last over and Warne handed the ball to Kamran, an inexperienced bowler who had nothing to lose.
Thedecision was yet another masterstroke, for Kamran showed no signs of pressure.
And when Ganguly lost his wicket to the penultimate ball (caught behind) and Ishant Sharma (1) was run out off the final ball, the stage was set for a 'Super over' -another first in the IPL.