New Delhi: There had to be a loser despite a cracking game of cricket between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Like their final two years ago, the two teams played out a thrilling tie and despite the agony of defeat, supporters of Rajasthan Royals and the team itself would have left the MA Chidambaram Stadium with their heads held high.
A series of high-scoring ties would indicate the bowlers being subject to torture at tailor-made batting pitches. Even so, this contest had a winner among a profession that scores poorest in T20 cricket.
You wouldn't get to see as many sixes even in your backyard. Murali Vijay enthralled the Chennai crowd with a sensational century, and carried on for 11 huge sixes, no mean feat for someone considered a batsman for the purists. And yet, there was nothing ugly in the right-hander's blistering 127 not out. Despite the early loss of Matthew Hayden, Vijay provided stunning entertainment.
Following up on another blitz is tough for any batsman, but Vijay managed to do just that after a great outing against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He swung through the line, waited on the backfoot for the ones pitched right up, and yet cleared the roped with ease; the highlight being the assault on Shaun Tait.
On a day that belonged to Vijay, it could have been easy to not notice Albie Morkel's vital innings. Not only did he provide exceptional support to Vijay, his return to form comes at a crucial time for the Super Kings, who must maintain their winning streak to advance to the last four. Dhoni's move to promote Morkel to No. 4 worked like a charm for the South African.
If there's one team that makes a fight out of any situation is the Rajasthan Royals. Despite losing early wickets including arguably their most important batsman in Yusuf Pathan, the Royals kept going at the massive target and nearly pulled off a big upset. Even though Shane Watson's return to the bowling line-up didn't make much difference, his presence in the batting line-up was vital.
Royals look a different team altogether when Watson is around. Naman Ojha would be gutted to not have finished on the winning side besides finishing six short of a spectacular century, but all that wouldn't have been possible had a batsman of Shane Watson's experience not been around.
Ojha, another of the classical mould, applied a similar approach to that of Vijay. The right-hander measured the bowling well, and took over the responsibility despite the loss of Michael Lumb's wicket. Watson acted as a calming force, going after the experienced hands in the Chennai line-up while Ojha carried on.
But despite the carnage, the difference between the two sides turned out to be a bowler. Doug Bollinger had only arrived like Watson, but the left-armer bowled with purpose and sting, and gave away just 15 runs besides picking up two wickets, besides the audacious catch to get rid of Yusuf Pathan. The runs that Rajasthan couldn't score off him turned out to be the difference. Remember Robin Uthappa, who tore into Brett Lee on Friday night?