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Rajasthan's batting woes continue

By Rediff cricket
Last updated on: April 27, 2009 00:17 IST
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- Scorecard

The ghosts of Newlands returned to haunt defending champions Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. They had succumbed to a tournament low of 58 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their opening match at the venue. On Sunday, at the same ground, Kings XI Punjab beat them by 27 runs. The only consolation for them is that this was the last game at a venue that proved to be their graveyard.

A 75-run partnership for the fifth wicket between man-of-the-match Kumar Sangakkara and Irfan Pathan gave the Punjab total (139 for six) a semblance of respectability considering that they were struggling at 48 for four at one stage.

A similar partnership up the order was precisely what Rajasthan lacked as their batting crashed to abysmal depths. If Punjab's performance with the bat was bad, Rajasthan's was worse.

In a match where both the teams were looking to build on the momentum gained by virtue of maiden wins in the second edition in their previous matches -- Rajasthan over Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab over RCB respectively -- Punjab proved a shade better to secure their second straight victory.

Punjab innings:

Yuvraj Singh called correctly for the first time in the tournament and had no hesitation in opting to bat.  However, it took Rajasthan only one ball to nullify any advantage Punjab would have hoped for following the toss.

Karan Goel was run-out by the Ravindra Jadeja - Swapnil Asnodkar combine to the first ball of the innings -- the second time in the day a wicket fell off the first ball following Jacques Kallis's dismissal against Delhi earlier.

Goel, who had scored an entertaining 38 in Punjab's opening tie against Delhi, now has failed to open his account in two of his last three innings.

Rajasthan's second breakthrough didn't take much time either, a slow full-toss from Kamran Khan enticing Ravi Bopara (11/15) and the latter spooning a catch to Munaf Patel at mid-on.

Bopara, who had scored a match-winning 84 against Bangalore two days earlier, looked out of sorts during his sojourn at the crease.

Yuvraj (2) came in to join Sangakkara but the captain survived only three deliveries, edging an away-going delivery from Munaf to Mahesh Rawat behind the stumps.

In his next over Munaf dismissed Mahela Jayawardene (7/10). The Sri Lankan, in his bid to clear the mid-off fielder, succeeded in lobbing the ball straight to Kamran Khan.

Punjab thus was in dire straits at 48 for four after 8.2 overs.

Irfan Pathan managed to clear a Shane Warne delivery over the deep midwicket fence for the maximum but Punjab needed more than just one big hit.

They were tottering at 60 for four at the strategic time out and Rajasthan seemed content with their efforts early on.

However, Punjab's fortune improved after the interval.

Sangakkara and Pathan (39/33) put together a 75-run partnership for the fifth wicket, combining caution and aggression to good effect.

Pathan, who amongst his other hits, smashed a delivery from older brother Yusuf over the midwicket fence. The elder brother also dropped his sibling (when on 34) at deep backward square leg and the bowler to suffer amid this sibling revelry was the captain himself.

The Sri Lankan completed his fifth IPL fifty with a six over fine leg off Warne. His 60 came off just 51 balls and included seven sweetly-timed boundaries besides the above-mentioned six.

Both Irfan and Sangakkara fell in the penultimate over of the innings, bowled by Kamran Khan.

While Irfan dragged the ball back into his stumps, Sangakkara was run-out five balls later following lack of communication with Piyush Chawla.

Piyush (6/6) and Wilkis Mota (1/2) couldn't do much in the final over bowled by Munaf -- it cost only nine -- even though Piyush had dispatched the first ball to the boundary square of third man.

Punjab's 139 for six was, without doubt, a disappointment.

Rajasthan innings:

Rajasthan's reply to Punjab's modest target can be described in just one word -- disastrous.

Blame it on complacency, over confidence, zero application or the lack of depth in their batting, the fact remained that Rajasthan had only themselves, rather their batsmen, to blame for putting up such a horrendous show.

As their innings commenced, the Rajasthan batsmen started their return back to the pavilion without wasting much time and with minimum effort.

The second over, by Irfan yielded two wickets. Swapnil Asnodkar (3/4) was done in by some extra bounce and top edged to Ramesh Powar at mid-on. His opening partner Graeme Smith (2/6) followed him four balls later.

Pathan bowled a beautiful delivery that kissed the South African's blade before making its way to the hands of Sangakkara.

Rajasthan were tottering at nine for two, after two.

The fifth over, bowled by Yusuf Abdulla, inflicted further misery on the defending champions as two more of their batsmen perished.

Rob Quiney (7/8) was snapped up by Sangakkara to the first ball and two balls later, Dimitri Mascarenhas (4/2) was done in by an off-cutter.

Rajasthan plunged to depths of darkness at 27 for four, after five.

And when the introduction of Piyush Chawla in the seventh over led to the departure of the dangerous Yusuf Pathan (10/13), caught by Goel at short fine leg, Punjab were in the driver's seat.

Chawla had Abhishek Raut (1/4) caught by Powar at mid-off in his second over to add to Rajasthan's cup of woes.

Going into the strategic time out, precariously placed at 48 for six, the worst aggregate at that stage since their own 32 for five against RCB, the defending champions had indeed run out of resources to execute any strategy they might have formulated during the break.

Ravindra Jadeja (37/44) along with skipper Warne (34 not out of 33) ensured a break on the fall of wickets but the runs flowed in a trickle, partly owing to the woeful situation the team was in -- they could hardly afford to lose more wickets at that stage -- and partly because both the above bastmen were not middling the ball well.

Nonetheless, their seventh wicket partnership of 60 runs came as a relief for Rajasthan, albeit it was never going to be enough.

With 54 runs required off the last four overs and 38 from the final two, it was getting increasingly difficult for the holders with every passing ball, the boundaries having dried up completely.

And the first ball of the penultimate over (by Abdulla) proved to be the final nail in their coffin. Jadeja was cleaned up by a swinging yorker and with him went any remote expectation his team might have had of winning.

Warne had ensured that his team did not cave in meekly, without a fight, after their horrendous start. He, however, couldn't stave off defeat.

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