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Rajasthan in runs, Punjab in ruins

By Rediff cricket
Last updated on: May 05, 2009 20:10 IST
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Rajasthan Royals thrashed Kings XI Punjab by 78 runs in their Indian Premier League match in Kingsmead, Durban, on Tuesday.

Chasing an improbable 212 to win, Punjab could score only 133 for eight and suffered what was, by far, their biggest defeat in the competition.

Amit Singh, with figures of three for nine of his four overs, was the most impressive Rajasthan bowler.

Punjab were in second place on the league table with four wins (out of seven) going into the match, while Rajasthan were second from the bottom, with just three wins in seven matches.

After the match, Rajasthan moved up to second while Punjab dropped to third from bottom.

A record 135-run opening wicket partnership put Rajasthan Royals on course for victory, as they posted a massive 211 for four. It was the first time in the second edition that the 200-run mark was surpassed, Delhi's 189 for five against Chennai being the highest previously.

Graeme Smith (77) and Naman Ojha (68) both helped themselves to well-constructed half-centuries as the Rajasthan batting woes were finally overcome.

To say Punjab's bowling was disappointing would be akin to stating the obvious, but, more importantly, and to their detriment, Yusuf Abdulla, the holder of the Purple cap for most wickets in the tournament, went wicket-less in his three overs and conceded a whopping 44 runs.

Rajasthan innings:

Yuvraj Singh's decision to field after calling correctly was a tad surprising considering the norm various captains have followed so far in the tournament.

However, the Punjab captain had his reasons -- there was a bit of grass in the Kingsmead wicket and that prompted the decision.

But when he handed Ramesh Powar the ball first up, he had committed a faux pas. Rajasthan opener Naman Ojha smashed the Punjab spinner's second delivery over the long-on boundary.

The fifth was hit to the cover-point fence and the final went past the sightscreen for another maximum.

Ojha had taken 16 off Powar's first over and Punjab began on an inauspicious note. The bowler did not come back to bowl again till the 11th over.

Ojha went on to smash Irfan Pathan over deep square leg fence for another six.

Graeme Smith, woefully short of form going into the match -- just 65 runs in six innings (including 44 in one) -- seemed to regain some of his touch.

The South Africa captain hit successive boundaries off Abdulla's first over to join the party, the first past the bowler and the second towards fine leg.

Rajasthan's batting was finally falling in place and both Ojha and Smith had no trouble in finding the boundary.

Abdulla, who had conceded 13 in his first over, suffered more in his second. Smith smashed him first over and then over the mid-off, the two boundaries taking him past Ojha, who had been the aggressive partner to start with.

With the latter also helping himself to a boundary, that Abdulla over went for 13 and Rajasthan went into the strategic time out in the driver's seat at 92 for no loss.

There was no respite for Punjab even after resumption.

Smith stepped down the track and hoisted Powar over the midwicket fence to complete a much-deserved half-century. He had taken just 26 balls and hit eight boundaries (besides the above mentioned maximum) en route to his landmark.

For the record, it was only the second half-century by a Rajasthan batsman in the tournament -- after Yusuf Pathan's unbeaten 62 in the win against Delhi Daredevils.

Their third came in the next over, when Ojha completed his maiden half-century with a single off Karan Goel.

Punjab finally made a breakthrough in the 15th over, when Smith, in a bid to clear the fence yet again (off Powar), holed out to Piyush Chawla at long-on.

But, frankly, it came quite late in the day.

Smith made 77 off just 44 balls (12x4, 1x6), the first time he had clicked in the tournament in the real sense, and the difference it had made to the Rajasthan batting was palpable.

In came the in-form Yusuf Pathan, and he wasted no time, smashing Abdulla over the deep square leg fence for a maximum and followed it up with a boundary to backward point.

And when Ojha also cleared the long-off fence in that over, it meant Abdulla's third over had cost Punjab another 17.

However, Yusuf (12/7) didn't last long. Chawla's final over secured two breakthroughs for Punjab.

Yusuf was the first to depart, caught by Goel and long-on, and four balls later, Ojha holed out to Katich at deep midwicket.

Ojha made 68 off just 51 balls (5x4, 5x6) and the decision to ask him to open the innings was yet another masterstroke from Rajasthan captain Shane Warne, one that worked tremendously for his team.

S Sreesanth, who was playing for the first time in the tournament having replaced Vikramajeet Singh, had given away just 21 runs in his first three overs. However, his final over cost Punjab 23, Ravindra Jadeja (33/12) taking 19 of those, including a maximum over long-on.

Jadeja, in a bid to accelerate, holed out to Mahela Jayawardene (of Irfan) at long-off in the final over.

However, the wicket was sweet reward for Irfan, who went for 40 in his four overs, with 24 coming off his final two.

Punjab had won the first match between the two sides, in Cape Town, by 27 runs. Having set a modest target of 140 after electing to bat first, their bowlers making quick inroads into Rajasthan's top order, reducing them to 36 for five at one stage -- eventually the latter ended up at 112 for seven.

Today, having asked Rajasthan to bat, Yuvraj might have just played into the opposition's hands in the hindsight.

Punjab innings:

It was a lost cause to begin with and Punjab's woes were compounded in the first over when Rajasthan made a double breakthrough.

Amit Singh got a wicket off his first delivery when Sunny Sohal (0) edged to Warne at slips.

Five balls later, a Goel mis-hit went straight to Shane Harwood at deep square leg and the latter made no mistake.

Punjab 2 for 2 after just one over.

It would have been worse had Warne at second slip held on to a chance offered by Sangakkara off Harwood's next over.

However, Rajasthan did not have to wait long for their third breakthrough, their first bowling change, Siddharth Trivedi, doing the trick for them in the fifth over, cleaning up Simon Katich (10/13).

Sangakkara (11/15) failed to make the most of his good fortune, coming down the track to hoist Yusuf and Ojha doing the work required behind the stumps.

Jayawardene smashed Harwood over fine leg for maximum but lost his wicket in the next ball, holing out to Trivedi at third man.

And that ensured Punjab went into the strategic time-out tottering at 53 for five, definitely down and most certainly out.

Irfan (19/17) added 48 runs for the sixth wicket with captain Yuvraj before Warne trapped him up front.

And Punjab required a mammoth 116 from their final five overs.

Yuvraj took 18 from the 16th over bowled by Warne, including two sixes over deep midwicket, but it was too little, too late.

But the Rajasthan captain did manage to take a wicket in the midst of the onslaught, having Chawla (6/7) caught by Jadeja at long-on. Warne went for 38 in his three overs but, more importantly, took two wickets.

Yuvraj's resistance ended with the first ball of the penultimate over, hoisting Singh to Harwood at square leg. The Punjab captain made 48 of 37 balls (3x4, 3x6) but even he had to bow to Warne's brilliance.

Punjab needed, believe it or faint, 84 from the last over and they did manage to reduce that figure to 78.

The end result, though on expected lines, was somewhat of an anti-climax.

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