‘Jaipur, our fortress’

Shane Watson and Graeme Smith... productive knocks.-RAJEEV BHATT

“I asked for a big effort from the players, told them how important it’s for the people of Jaipur that we reach the semi-finals,” said Shane Warne after his team had beaten Rahul Dravid’s men. Over to G. Viswanath.

Royal Challengers’ scorecard against Rajasthan Royals in a way tells the story of how it has struggled right from day one of the DLF-IPL competition after Brendon McCullum had smashed an unbeaten 158 against it. The Bangalore side mustered only 132 off 120 balls. It was another dismal performance with the bat. No team advancing at a fraction over one run an over can hope to achieve a positive result and the Bangalore team suffered from the want of a bright start.

There was not even a run on the board when the first wicket went down, it was just three runs when Misbah-ul-Haq fell and five when Virat Kohli was emphatically dismissed. Sohail Tanvir’s left-arm seam and variety and assistance from the Challengers’ batsmen eased matters for the host. Defeat by 65 runs was an apt reflection of Challengers’ slipshod batting and the home team picked up two more points. “We want to keep Jaipur as our fortress, we don’t want any one to beat us here,” said Shane Warne after his team’s sixth straight win at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium.

Rahul Dravid was the lone Bangalore batsman to be defiant. The former India captain refused to buckle under pressure, exhibited an array of stokes and made an undefeated 75 off 36 balls with five 6s and five 4s. It was a credit to the man who has, on many occasions in his distinguished career, been accused of being defensive in one-day internationals. Dravid demonstrated that orthodox methods will always deliver the big runs in any form of cricket.

The Royals’ openers took strike a little after the two teams had observed two minutes silence as a mark of respect to the people, who had died in the Jaipur bomb blasts, and after the IPL Chairman and Commissioner, Lalit Modi, had given a cheque of Rs. 6 crore to the Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundara Raje Scindia for relief work. Signs of Jaipur town returning to normality were visible, but there was palpable anxiety, too. Initially shaken by the mayhem caused by the blasts, the two teams agreed to play the match after the IPL and the State Government took steps to fortify the security around the venue.

Swapnil Asnodkar batted with a devil may care attitude and found the ball racing to the fence behind wicketkeeper Devraj Patil and Dravid at slip. Graeme Smith did not let the loose balls go unpunished. With strokes of luck and some from the middle of the bat Asnodkar advanced. The South African captain provided stability. The Challengers wilted, but Sunil Gavaskar, visiting Jaipur for the first time in 10 years, was sympathetic to the fielding side saying it was too hot out there in the middle.

Anyway, things appeared to be getting out of control for the Challengers. Dale Steyn was rested, and Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar failed to penetrate the defence of the Rajasthan openers. Jacques Kallis and IPL debutant Abdur Razzak suffered with the Bangladeshi left-arm spinner conceding 10 runs in his first two balls. Anil Kumble got his first wicket in IPL when he dismissed Asnodkar. The Goan opener made 50 off 44 balls with seven fours and a six. Thereafter Smith (75 not out, 49 balls, eight 4s and two 6s) and Shane Watson added 88 for the unbroken second wicket and virtually took the match away from the Challengers. For nearly an hour the crowd was silent, but applauded every shot played by Watson after he opened his account with two fours off Kumble.

The Challengers lost its openers and Misbah-ul-Haq by the 20th ball leaving Dravid to do some repair work which he did with panache. “We had some tactics for Misbah and the others and it worked. I asked for a big effort from the players, told them how important it’s for the people of Jaipur that we reach the semi-finals. I am happy they responded in a big way. Rahul is a class player and a gentleman of the game. Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers are not such bad sides as shown in the results. We had plans and they have clicked so far,” said Shane Warne.

The Scores

Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sawai Man Singh Stadium, Jaipur, May 17, 2008.

Result: Rajasthan Royals won by 65 runs.

Rajasthan Royals 197 for one in 20 overs (G. Smith 75, S. Asnodkar 50, S. Watson 46 n.o.) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 132 for nine in 20 overs (J. Kallis 20, R. Dravid 75 n.o., S. Tanvir 3-10, M. Patel 2-21, S. Warne 3-23.)