Jaipur: If it's the Sawai Mansingh Stadium opposing teams are pretty much facing an uphill battle. That truism of IPL 6 was again evident on Tuesday as Rajasthan Royals chased down a target of 155 with nine wickets and 13 deliveries in hand to all but secure their progression to the IPL 6 play-offs and confirm Delhi Daredevils' elimination.
Rajasthan came into the game tied on second spot with three other teams with five matches to go, and proceeded to put in a strong performance in the field which was backed by another excellent opening stand from Rahul Dravid (53) and Ajinkya Rahane (63*). Delhi, without the pressure of much to lose, failed to get lift from their big guns and were left reliant on Ben Rohrer with a career-best 63 off 39 balls.
Delhi's hopes of victory rested on a big day from their batsmen, but the failures of Virender Sehwag and David Warner set them back early. After taking 11 off a pacy first over from Shaun Tait, complete with three leg-side wides, Delhi lost two quick wickets in the next two overs. James Faulkner's change of pace did for Sehwag (11), bowled neck and crop when trying to crash the ball away, and Shane Watson had the debutant CM Gautam caught behind for 2.
Warner and Mahela Jayawardene pinched two boundaries each as 17 came off Tait's second over, but the pressure of two tidy overs told. Trying to force the pace off a crafty Stuart Binny, Warner (13) drove to cover where Sachin Baby held a good diving catch.
Bowling tidily and rarely giving much room to work with, 41-year-old legspinner Pravin Tambe - who made his debut despite never having played first-class cricket - wheeled over his quota while conceding 30 runs. The wicket of Jayawardene (34) who flicked Siddharth Trivedi to midwicket threatened to further slow down Delhi but some sensible batting from Rohrer and Kedar Jadhav (23*) dragged Delhi past 100 and then hurried them to 154 at the death. He and Jadhav pinched 50 off the last four overs, 34 of which came in 15 balls to Rohrer who reached his maiden IPL half-century with a clever paddle for four off Watson.
In reply, the Rajasthan openers put on 108 in 13.4 overs without playing needless shots. After facing a maiden over from Siddarth Kaul, Dravid got going with some delectable shots off the pads, the pick of the lot being a lofted on-drive off Ajit Agarkar. As he progressed, Dravid started to flourish on the off side and pulled out a couple inside-out drives over cover against the spinners. His fourth fifty of the season came up in 45 balls but he fell soon after, lofting Kaul to long-on.
Rahane, who on 4 got a life when he mistimed Morne Morkel's first delivery into the off side where Pawan Negi spilled a running chance, was not as fluent but added to his run tally with another half-century. There several inside edges but with Dravid scoring at a healthy clip Rahane didn't need to go hard at the ball and settled to reach his fifty in 37 balls. Watson came in and hastened victory with 28 off 14 balls, sealing Rajasthan's eighth victory.