New Delhi: Rajasthan Royals came to the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday having never won an IPL match at Delhi Daredevils' fortress, and managed to turn what looked like a meandering defeat into a pulsating five-run win over the hosts. With Delhi needing 17 off 12 balls with seven wickets in hand, game four of IPL 6 appeared to heading towards a facile climax but Brad Hodge nailed a direct hit to run-out David Warner for 77 in the 19th over to change things. Kevon Cooper, whose first two overs had gone for 23, conceded just three off the last six balls and took two wickets to leave Rajasthan whooping in celebration of their first victory at the Kotla.
Until he was run out, Warner had hit 77 off 56 balls with nine fours and a six. On the third ball of the 19th over he pushed the ball to cover and set off for a single but Hodge hit the stumps with a direct hit. Just four runs came off the next three balls, which left Delhi needing nine from the last over. Kooper began with two singles, then Johan Botha missed a reverse-paddle and was out lbw; Irfan Pathan took a single but Andre Russell walked across his stumps and was bowled; six off the last ball was too much for Naman Ojha.
It capped a remarkable day for Rajasthan, who at one stage looked like they would rue losing four wickets for three runs in five balls at the end of their innings. Umesh Yadav had struck the first blow in the third over when IPL debutant Kusal Perera (14) who chipped a catch to Irfan at wide extra cover. That brought together Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Dravid, who forged a second-wicket alliance of 65 in 51 balls, with just seven fours between them.
Rahul Dravid made a crucial 65. (BCCI)
Without arguably their strongest player, Shane Watson, Rajasthan needed a strong top-order contribution and that came from Dravid who made the most of two dropped catches to top-score with 65 off 51 balls, thus becoming the second-oldest player in the IPL to hit a fifty. He was the more fluent and quickly moved past Rahane and in fact outscored him 38 to 21 in that partnership.
Rahane struggled for timing and his tepid innings of 28 off 24 balls came to an end in the 12th over when he drove a return catch to Shahbaz Nadeem. Delhi let a few chances go and misfielded too; Botha spilled Perera at slip, Russell dropped a return catch when Dravid was 38 and Warner palmed a boundary catch over the ropes to allow Dravid the first six of the innings.
It was Stuart Binny who injected the desired momentum by launching into Botha in the 15th over with four, six and six in successive deliveries. Dravid reached his half-century in 40 balls during that 19-run opening over from his former Rajasthan team-mate as the hosts finished the second strategic time-out on 127 for 2. The last five overs demanded an assault but Yadav and Nehra bowled full and straight to take wickets of consecutive deliveries in the penultimate and final overs. Yadav made a good return to the IPL with 4 for 34, three of which came as Delhi did a good job of limiting the damage at the end.
Warner was subdued as Delhi began their chase. With Unmukt Chand (23) dominating an opening partnership of 39 runs in 5.4 overs before he was bowled by Sreesanth, Delhi were kept in control of their reply. Warner was given two chances - on 3 when Dravid dropped a catch at point and on 57 when Ankeen Chavan dropped him at deep backward square leg - and kept a cool head to steer Delhi home.
A 43-run stand between Warner and Mahela Jayawardene was snapped in the 11th over when Ajinkta Rahane intercepted an aerial cut from Delhi's captain with a terrific catch at point to give seamer Rahul Shukla his first wicket. That brought in young Manprit Juneja who contributed 20 to a stand of 67 in seven overs, and it seemed like Delhi were on course. Then came the strong arm of Hodge.