Rajasthan Royals’ batting fired collectively to break a run of four consecutive losses and consign Kings XI Punjab to their fourth defeat in five home games this season. Royals blazed away at the start after Rahul Dravid chose to bat on a greenish pitch, slowed down in the middle and picked up the pace at the death to post the highest total at Mohali this season.
Their bowlers kept the home batsmen under pressure from the outset, and at no stage did Kings XI threaten to chase successfully, something which had been achieved in the four previous games at Mohali.
Royals’ batsmen had been guilty recently of easing off after strong starts to post inadequate scores. Just when it looked today that the flurry of boundaries upfront from Dravid and Shane Watson would dissipate into another middling total, Brad Hodge and Johan Botha cracked 27 off the last two overs to ensure Royals finished close to the 180-mark which they were aiming for.
When Dravid and Watson were pounding the Kings XI attack in their contrasting styles, Royals would have eyed 200. The duo took control after the in-form Ajinkya Rahane fell early to Ryan Harris. Dravid, enjoying the pace and bounce on the true pitch, launched an array of orthodox strokes, clipping and cover-driving Harris for three consecutive boundaries in the fourth over. Watson did it his way, powering Parvinder Awana down the ground for two fours and a six in consecutive balls in the sixth.
The stand was worth 69 off 39 deliveries by the time Watson mishit Piyush Chawla to long-off. Dravid had already started to slow down. After breezing to 27 off 16, he managed 19 off the next 23 before slicing a drive off Harris to third man.
Ashok Menaria, batting ahead of Hodge and Botha, hit Chawla for consecutive sixes, but could not capitalise on a dropped catch when on 29, to fall for 34 off 27. From 76 for 1 in the eighth over, Royals had meandered to 133 for 4 after 16.
Hodge and Botha, though, were around for a final push. Azhar Mahmood was taken for 16 in the penultimate over and Harris, despite taking two more wickets, conceded 11 in the 20th.
Faced with a stiff asking-rate right from the start, Kings XI needed Shaun Marsh and David Hussey to contribute. Watson began with a wicket-maiden, getting rid of Mandeep Singh.
Shaun Tait, playing his first game of the season, proved difficult to score off with his combination of extreme pace, late swing and rare accuracy. With the overseas bowlers difficult to get away, Hussey tried to go after Siddharth Trivedi in the eighth over but only mishit a pull for Hodge to take a fine sliding catch running in from long-on.
A thin line-up meant Marsh was Kings XI’s only realistic hope left, but he departed in the next over, stepping out to Botha but just managing to york himself. The asking-rate was almost eleven by this time, and long before formalities ended, Royals had ensured they would remain afloat this season.