Rajasthan Royals’ previous four matches against Deccan Chargers had ended in victory, and a rather one-sided rivalry was extended in Jaipur where the home team pulled off a remarkable chase of 197 with five wickets and two balls remaining. Set their stiffest target of the season, Rajasthan were given a strong start from Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane but three wickets to Amit Mishra left them struggling for air. That’s when Brad Hodge proved his versatility; he smashed Dale Steyn for four consecutive fours en route to a nerveless 21-ball 48, and the IPL debutant Dishant Yagnik carved Steyn for successive fours to clinch a thriller. The win kept Rajasthan atop the IPL 5 table, and their reputation as the team to beat in 2012.
When Hodge walked to the middle at the fall of Owais Shah in the 14th over, Rajasthan needed 75 from 40 balls with seven wickets in hand. It was a daunting task, considering after Hodge there were no reputed batsman to follow. But the Australian swung the momentum back with four consecutive fours off Steyn – through point, past square leg, to third man and between the covers.
Then Johan Botha – dropped by Bharat Chipli at point on three – dumped Christian for a big six in the 18th over. Anand Rajan removed Botha with a slower ball, but Hodge smacked a straight four and a sliced six over extra cover to leave the target at 11 off six balls. Hodge carved the first ball from Steyn out to sweeper cover and sprinted two, flicked the second for a single and then Yagnik slapped a short ball to the point boundary to bring the Rajasthan dug-out to its feet. The winning shot came the very next delivery, as Yagnik punched into the covers and the boundary patroller made a mess of it.
This capped a thrilling chase, which had been ignited by Dravid who sped to 42 from 24 balls before being bowled by Christian. Steyn’s first over produced three boundaries, Rajan went for two streaky boundaries, and Dravid smoked Christian for a six before losing his leg stump. Rahane – fresh from a maiden Twenty20 century – contributed a more sedate 17 off 11 balls to the 62-run opening stand. Rajasthan opted for the strategic time-out after six overs, and the asking rate slowly climbed as Christian kept a check on runs and Steyn returned to test Rahane and Ashok Menaria. Rahane – who crossed 300 runs in IPL 5 - broke free with a six off Mishra to take the score to 90 for 1 after ten, meaning Rajasthan needed 108 at the half-way mark. However, attempting to pick up the asking rate against Mishra, Deccan stumbled. Menaria pulled a short ball to midwicket, Rahane skipped out and found the long-off fielder, and Shah – the man on whom the responsibility for a late surge rested – swiped to deep midwicket. Rajasthan still had Hodge, though.
Playing their first match since April 9 – a gap of eight days – Deccan would have backed themselves to win this after piling up 196 for 2. On a lightning-quick outfield, Deccan took at least one boundary off each of the first nine overs and, after a brief hiccup following the exit of their openers, produced a late surge that yielded 53 in the final four overs.
Shikhar Dhawan (52) and Kumar Sangakkara (44) put on 94 in 10. 4 overs, a stand that was snapped by Hodge’s part-time spin. Dhawan fell soon after, but after the strategy break JP Duminy and Christian provided the acceleration. They each hit sixes to get going, and even when the boundaries weren’t located the pair hustled between the wickets – they pinched five doubles – to ensure the platform set by the openers wasn’t wasted. Amit Singh’s third over cost 17, Pankaj Singh was looted for 18 in the penultimate over, and Duminy hit his fourth and fifth sixes in the final over to speed to a half-century in 24 balls. His splendid innings grabbed the initiative away from Rajasthan and resulted in Deccan posting a big total. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough.